Laika

  • Children Theatre
  • Written and directed by Briony Hannah and Avye Leventis
  • Unicorn Theatre, London
  • Until 12 November 2017
  • Review Caroline Perret and Lucien Asbury-Perret (13)
  • 5 October 2017
Laika
5.0Reviewer's Rating

In the most dynamic fashion, the show starts with a Unicorn Theatre usher chasing a woman actor acting as a dog, and what a dog! In 1957, Laika was indeed selected among hundreds of stray dogs on the streets of Moscow and was trained to be the first living creature to orbit earth. Excitingly, the audience is able to follow her experiences of the streets, tram and metro of Moscow thanks to pointers on detailed maps, the sounds of a busy city and an ingenious movable stage set.

Following an organic creative process, the play beautifully intertwines the story of Laika with that of teen-ager Sami’s mum, who is an astronaut preparing to go on a long voyage onto planet Mars. All actors play fantastically: Josie Daxter has subtly retained her humanity and humour as a dog; Anna Martine Freeman is together a dynamic and tender mum as well as a larger than life usher who has taken a bazooka job on; Nima Taleghani finds the perfect balance between teen-age aspirations for independence and the painful process of letting her mum go and follow her dreams out in space.

With rocket and fume, delicate fluorescent projections onto the walls of the theatre and magical music made of ringing bells, the audience is invited to share their passion for space and the universe. In addition to an energetic scenography, the decor keeps changing, from Sami’s bedroom, to a space observatory and training lab. We almost feel we are in NASA training centre! After Mum has acquired her new flashy space-suit, the audience witnesses her training and Laika’s, which make an inventive use of hanged loops and turning office chairs, and of their beating hearts merging into bouncy techno music and movement.

Ultimately, the play tells us about aspiration, hard work and the courage involved in heading off into the unknown. A scary, but worthwhile experience, full of wonders, being as we are, “all made of stars”.

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