Daily Drudgery - or - Life is Sweet

October 20, 2014

I Believe in Unicorns – Gender Misconceptions

I was so delighted when I saw that my local library in Waterlooville was putting on a childrens’ theatre production as part of The Spring’s outreach project. It had already become a community hub that offered far more than PC training, internet use and of course the lending of all things truly life-enriching – books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, music and so on. Yoga classes, talks, toddler groups and even a lovely shop formed part of the newly refurbished space, and as a weekly visitor I found these ever-increasing events most tantalising! So I booked the last few tickets available for ‘I Believe in Unicorns’ from the award-winning ‘Wizard’ theatre company, and looked forward to the Tuesday evening in question.
When the day arrived, I picked up boy number 1 from his dad in the morning, and reminded him of the show we were to watch that night. I pulled an embarrassed smile and looked towards his dad, who smirked, as it appeared he had been ribbed mercilessly about watching a show involving and entitled ‘Unicorns’. It, apparently, had to be girls’ territory. This less-than-enthusiastic approach then began to rub off on my middle boy. He exclaimed ‘Unicorns are for girls!’ Already I could feel the magic that had swirled in my stomach whenever I see live theatre dampen a little, though I tried not to show it. Where had these misconceptions about Unicorns come from? I thought about the rows of ‘girls’ literature I had seen in the library, with common theme colours and perhaps a smattering of unicorns here and there. I then thought of ‘The Lego Movie’, which we had treated the kids to and they had lapped up a couple of months ago. The Unicorn character, from my vague recollection (I have yet to sit down and watch it in full) was a little spaced out and most definitely female – a proper send-up. Both boys appeared to want to assert their emerging masculinity by expressing their disdain for the production, though middle boy was excited nonetheless. When we arrived, I practically wrenched biggest boy off my arm and forced him to sit on the cushions at the front of the intriguing set which comprised of stacks and stacks of books.
My heart knew that this was not going to be a disaster. The original Michael Mopurgo book about a boy who was not keen on books seemed to be the perfect tale for my lads. And boy, it did not disappoint. Danyah Miller – the storyteller and actress throughout the hour-long production, was utterly mesmerising both with the spinning of the yarn and with her seamless use of the props and technology around her…and my boys were captivated. Books opened and became other things, they projected images, video and photography, light and fire, evocative music and magical lighting, and with this came the childlike sense of wonder evolving from a great story, and the far less ‘girly’ representation of this magical, mythical beast – here it appeared as a sturdy wooden sculpture…and its justification for its place on this planet was its metamorphosis into…the narwhal. Well, that sold it for my nature-loving boys, who left proclaiming they DID believe in unicorns, and with their unquenchable sense of magic restored.