The Velveteen Rabbit was written by Margery Williams in 1922; it’s the touching story of a boy and his toy rabbit and how the transformative power of love makes the rabbit “real”. It has been animated, filmed and re-illustrated many times, all a testament to its lasting appeal. Now, the Unicorn Theatre proves that it can be very successfully adapted for the stage.
A velveteen rabbit with pink satin ears is just one of the Christmas presents the Boy receives and it’s definitely not the most exciting of them. The Boy prefers other toys, and the rest of the toys in the nursery snub it for being just a cuddly toy. “What is real?” the rabbit wonders. “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real.” replies the elderly and frayed Skin Horse, the rabbit’s only friend, which has itself been made real by the Boy’s uncle many years back. But after his Nana gives the Boy the rabbit to sleep with, the Boy and the rabbit bond and soon become inseparable; pillow fights, sea voyages, riding on the back of an elephant or conquering mountains, nothing is beyond the reach of their imagination.
Instead of resorting to nostalgic sentimentalism and predictable jokes, to make the production appealing, the cast and creative team of The Velveteen Rabbit have created a lean, witty and moving performance that is a delight to watch, whether you are an adult or a child, but nonetheless does not spare you any of the harsh realities.
Christian Roe plays the Velveteen Rabbit expertly, so much so that you expect his nose to start twitching at any moment; while Paul Lloyd is delightfully witty as the Narrator, the Nana and the Skin Horse. Wilkie Branson’s choreography adds to the credibility of the acting and the flow of the performance.
The production is great fun with props, set and actors popping in and out of trap doors in the floor of the stage and a giant bed that doubles as a pirate ship or mountain top; all wheeled out in succession as the Boy and the Velveteen Rabbit engage in various adventures. Appropriately, the rest of the set mimics sketches from children’s book illustrations. Christian Roe’s jacket becomes increasingly threadbare and patched throughout the play, and is used as a device to symbolise the shared experiences and the passing of time.
Smartly done, heart-warming and entertaining… If you have children do not miss the opportunity to see The Velveteen Rabbit!