Sarah O'Connell and Orla Hanks

Journey to the River Sea at the Unicorn Theatre

The Unicorn is offering a real treat this Christmas in the form of a revival of the stage adaptation of Eva Ibbotson's popular novel Journey to the River Sea.

Journey to the River Sea at the Unicorn Theatre

A cast of eight maintain a quick pace to tell the story of an orphan girl, Maia, sent to live with relatives in the Amazon jungle. With a few props and plenty of songs, the scene changes to include a Victorian schoolroom, a trans-Atlantic liner, and even, Fitzcaraldo-style, an opera house in the jungle.

At about two hours without the interval it was long for a children's play, yet the smaller members of the audience were gripped. The plot took lots of twists and turns, and there were some super characters. The stern governess, played by Julie Hewlett, turns out to be a real friend, whilst Sam Adams and Nina Kristofferson have fun as a pair of ugly sisters straight out of a pantomime tradition.

It is a children's play and things, inevitably, work out well in the end. But adults can be reassured that on the way Maia, played by a multi-talented Lucy Rivers, faces some difficult challenges, and there is plenty to interest and entertain them as well.

Orla, aged eight, tells me that there were some very funny jokes and that she particularly liked the different music and dancing. She agrees that other children about the same age as her would enjoy it, and now plans to read the book.

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