EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: UNICORN PARTY, Zoo Playground
Unicorns are everywhere right now: gift cards, hair tutorials, sugary drinks and glittery baked goods. Unicorn Party examines the unicorn phenomenon, its history and its potentially sinister future.
'Party' is an appropriate part of the show's title. Within the first five minutes, there's a confetti cannon, glittery tassel wings, and performance artist Nick Field crooning his own take on Frankie Goes To Hollywood, before whipping up some candy floss. Field is an engaging performer with an endearing camp aesthetic - even when he insults his audience in drag queen style, he is quick to assure us of his affection.
Through the planned anarchy, Field considers the unicorn phenomenon as appropriation of queer culture, and persuasively traces the evolution through the centuries of both unicorns and sugar back to the idea of purity, with each of these elements being shown to be symbolic of power.
Suddenly, Field moves from considering the past of the unicorn to the future, detailing a theory of an insidious unicorn cabal pulling the strings behind global society. All of the show's bright colours slowly disappear as the show morphs into a thoughtful critique of a descent into fascism. The shift is rather abrupt here, perhaps intentionally, but the change to speculative fiction makes it a tad difficult for the audience to keep up.
Like a unicorn-themed hair look, there are moments of marvellous vibrance, with Field's vulnerable yet proud description of the return of his lost unicorn figure as a child a particularly sweet moment, bringing to mind the empowering delight many find in the aesthetic. Similarly, the final image of the "pure" Nick, devoid of colour and power, is a striking one.
However, like a limited release Starbucks Frappuccino, there are perhaps a few too many ingredients in this melting pot, and the script does occasionally feel like it is aiming for something more profound than it manages. Still, if we're not quite following, we're happy for Nick to take us there.
Photo credit: Field and McGlynn