BOOKS came to life on stage at the Corn Exchange when the award-winning production of I Believe in Unicorns was performed to audiences.

Telling the story of Michael Morpurgo’s book of the same name, award-winning storyteller Danyah Miller brought her acclaimed production to the Newbury theatre ahead of a six-week West End summer season.

The tour celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the show which has been seen by more than 80,000 people with performances at every scale, including two previous runs in the West End.

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It has won several awards including an Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence at the Brighton Festival.

It is easy to see why the show is so popular. I Believe in Unicorns tells the tale of the power of books and the bravery of eight-year-old Tomas who hates reading and school.

The young boy’s world is turned upside down the day he meets the ‘Unicorn Lady’ in his local library and embarks on a spellbinding journey.

Bringing Morpurgo’s treasured story to life, the interactive and enchanting show is set in a library full of books that hold more than stories within their pages.

In what appears to be a simple set with piles of books stacked high across the stage, the young audience members were mesmerised and astounded as the books literally come to life in front of their eyes.

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“Books open a whole new world where you can do and be anything,” the Unicorn Lady told the audience, before showing the true power of reading a story.

The piles of books on stage opened up to literally reveal a whole new world, turning into kites, rivers, ladders, unicorns and even a whole town.

It was incredibly imaginative and creative, and the preparation and attention to detail was astounding as Miller moved effortlessly from book to book, revealing what was inside, to help tell the story.

“Books encourage us to dream and think and ask questions,” she said, when her town’s library was under threat during the outbreak of war.

There was plenty of audience participation throughout, including a section where the children were invited to help tell a story acted out on stage by Miller.

In a sub-plot the story also told that of unicorns – hence the title – and how they failed to board the ark during a storm because they were playing hide and seek in the woods.

The audience was asked to help create sound effects of thunder and rain, which proved incredibly powerful as everyone stamped their feet on the floor in unison, engulfing the theatre in a thunderous roar. 

The story climaxed in a powerful and emotive conclusion, as the audience watched in stunned silence as the town and its library were burned to the ground.

However, it ended in an uplifting outcome as everyone was invited to help Tomas and his dad work together to rescue the precious books from the flames.

The magical, moving and powerful show was an absolute triumph, and the audience whooped with delight and appreciation for Miller’s astounding performance when it came to an end.

Speaking about the show, Miller said: “I’m passionate about sharing stories with families because I’ve seen first-hand the positive effect stories have in our lives.

"I am thrilled that our magical show is back out on tour to celebrate its 10th anniversary year. We look forward to a new generation of children discovering this story for the first time.”

The Corn Exchange – less than half an hour from Basingstoke – has an impressive range of performances and activities over the summer for children, including the unmissable Museum of the Moon in its auditorium by UK artist Luke Jerram; wellbeing workshops for the whole family; and Deep Sea Ravers – a sea-themed party for children of all ages and their parents or carers.

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