Unicorn Theatre, Exterior, 147 Tooley Street
Location within Central London
|Address||147 Tooley Street
|Type||Receiving and producing house|
100–seat (studio theatre)
The Unicorn Theatre is the UK's leading theatre for audiences aged 2–21. The theatre has its home in a custom-built, RIBA Award–winning building on Tooley Street, in the London Borough of Southwark, which opened in 2005. The theatre was designed by Keith Williams, built by Arup and comprises two theatre spaces (the Weston and Clore Theatres), an education studio, rehearsal space, café and the John Lyon meeting room.
The theatre was founded in 1947, by Caryl Jenner, originally as a Mobile Theatre; In 1961, Jenner began presenting children's productions at the Arts Theatre in the West End, and in 1967 the company took over the lease of the theatre which then became Unicorn's permanent performing base until 1999; during this period the normal run of adult performances continued during the evenings.
The Unicorn is a registered charity and is an Arts Council England National Portfolio organisation.
From 1944 Caryl Jenner wrote Christmas Pantomimes for small time playhouses. During performances she would make note of the behaviour of the children, recording what scenes and sequences held their attention, and which did not. She began to formulate the principles that would guide her theatre and writing. In 1947 the ‘Mobile Theatre’ was born. Caryl's mission was to drive around the austere post-war towns of Britain, as well as isolated villages to bring theatre to new audiences. They supplemented their income by performing to adults in the evenings but their goal was always to captivate the minds and imagination of children.
The ‘Mobile Theatre’ continued to grow in reputation, gaining success and acclaim. In 1950 it changed its name to ‘The Caryl Jenner Mobile Theatre’, to signify Caryl’s influence. In 1962, the name changed again, to the ‘Unicorn Theatre Club’. In 1967, the company gave up touring and took up the lease at the Arts Theatre in London, receiving a £10,000 annual grant from the Arts Council, which remained its home until the present Unicorn Theatre was built in 2005. Caryl Jenner died on the 29th of January 1973 at the age of 55. She left behind a theatre with national acclaim and a clear set of artistic principles.
- Lord Attenborough
- Camila Batmanghelidjh
- Quentin Blake
- Guy Chambers
- Joanna David
- Dame Judi Dench
- Jude Law
- Harvey McGrath
- Michael Morpurgo
- Lord Moser
- Jeremy Paxman
- Philip Pullman
- Meera Syal
- Emma Thompson
- Dame Jacqueline Wilson
- Caryl Jenner (1947–1973)
- Matyelok Gibbs (1973–1977)
- Nicholas Barter (1977–1986)
- Chris Wallis (1986–1990)
- Richard Williams (1990–1997)
- Tony Graham (1997–2011)
- Purni Morell (2011-Current)
Exterior of the Unicorn Theatre designed by Keith Williams.
TMA Equity Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN (2001)
- RED RED SHOES (Nomination 2002)
- LOOKING FOR JJ (2008) co-production with Pilot Theatre
- FOR THE BEST (2009) co-production with Mark Storor and Anna Ledgard
Arts Council Award for Best New Play for Children
- RED RED SHOES (2004)
Writers’ Guild Award for Best New Play for Children and Young People
- SLEEPING BEAUTY (Nomination 2009)
- RED FORTRESS (Nomination 2009)
Theatre Centre Brian Way Award for Best New Play for Young People
- BILLY THE KID (Nomination 2008)
- DUCK! (Nomination 2009)
Eleanor Farjeon Award (For an outstanding contribution to the world of children’s books)
- Nomination 2006
- Nomination 2009
Linbury Prize for Stage Design
- Host company for 3 short-listed designers (2009) in recognition of Unicorn’s commitment to high production values and quality.
Time Out Top 5 Best Shows for Family Audiences
- BILLY THE KID (No. 1 in 2007)
- RED FORTRESS (No. 4 in 2008)
- PERO (No. 1 in 2008) international co-production with Speeltheater Holland
Current and forthcoming productions at the Unicorn - Autumn 2014 / 2015 season
When I Think About the Universe I Laugh for No Reason A Unicorn Young Company production directed by Ellen Edwin-Scott and Emma Higham Dates 28 - 30 Aug
Seesaw A Unicorn production by Stewart Melton, directed by Sarah Argent Dates 6 Sep - 2 Nov
Tales from the MP3 A 20 Stories High production created by Julia Samuels with 20 Stories High Young Actors Company, directed by Julia Samuels Dates 11 - 13 Sep
The Secret Life of Suitcases An Ailie Cohen Puppet Maker / Unicorn production by Lewis Hetherington and Ailie Cohen Dates 18 Sep - 12 Oct
Something Very Far Away A Unicorn production, Written, Directed and Original score by Mark Arends, Puppets, Design and Animation by Matthew Robins, Lighting Design by Declan Randall Dates 20 - 28 Sep
How Nigeria Became: A Story and a Spear that Didn't Work A Unicorn production Written and Directed by Gbolahan Obisesan Dates 9 Oct - 9 Nov
Nosferatu A Bob Theatre production Dates 30 Oct - 2 Nov
Girls Like That A Unicorn / Synergy Theatre Project production by Evan Placey, Directed by Esther Baker Dates 6 - 22 Nov
The Nutcracker and The Mouse King A Unicorn production by Annie Siddons, Directed by Ellen McDougall Dates 21 Nov - 4 Jan
The Fourth Wise Man A Unicorn production Directed by Lee Lyford Dates 30 Nov - 4 Jan
Scrunch A Unicorn Theatre and Theatr IoIo production (in association with Sarah Argent), Created by Sarah Argent and Kevin Lewis Dates 9 Dec - 4 Jan
The Polar Bears Go Wild A Macrobert / Fish and Game production in association with the Unicorn, Created and Performed by Eilidh MacAskill and Fiona Manson Dates 9 - 25 Jan
The Caucasian Chalk Circle A Unicorn production by Bertolt Brecht, Translated by Frank McGuinness, Directed by Amy Leach Dates 16 Jan - 21 Mar
Britain's Best Recruiting Sergeant A Unicorn production by Joy Wilkinson, Directed by Lee Lyford Dates 13 Feb - 15 Mar
50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) A Unicorn / Fundus Theater / Research Theatre Hamburg production, inspired by the book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Tinkering Unlimited / Julie Spielger and Gever Tulley, By Hanno Krieg and Sibylle Peters Dates 14 - 22 Feb
- "Unicorn Theatre London : Architecture Information". e-architect, UK. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "Arts Theatre and Unicorn Theatre Archive, 1902-1982". Theatre Collections. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Official website
- The Arts Theatre and Unicorn Theatre Archive is held by the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre and Performance Department.