Laika, Unicorn Theatre. Josie Daxter as Laika. Photo: Richard Lakos
The story of Laika, the canine astronaut, is told alongside that of Sami (Nima Taleghani) and his mum, Val (Anna Martine Freeman). Val is also an astronaut, preparing to make history by leading the first expedition to colonise Mars. Her and young son live in the space station, and Val is also preparing Sami for the possibility that she won’t return from pioneering the colony by introducing him to Laika’s story.
The tale of the ‘dog chosen to walk amongst the stars’ isn’t necessarily a happy one, but Laika imparts the seriousness of the subject matter without sacrificing fun.
Val and Sami’s story is peppered intermittently with historical flashbacks to Soviet Russia, where Laika is chased through the streets and subjected to tests to determine if she's fit for space travel. She occasionally appears in Sami's room as a kind of imaginary friend.
Parallels are drawn between Laika and Val as both prepare to blast off into the great unknown, and, subsequently, the history books. This is most successfully accomplished in a training montage that makes ample use of physical mirroring on stage, but the entwined plot lines never fully merge into one story.
Laika, Unicorn Theatre. Anna Martine Freeman as Val, Nima Taleghani as Sami. Photo: Richard Lakos
Josie Daxter steals the show with her portrayal of Laika. From the moment she bursts onto the stage, every step, sniff, and scratch is immediately evocative of dog. Her celestial canine has a character young theatregoers can easily connect with, and may just be the most relatable fictional dog since Doug from Up.
Compared to the captivating Laika, though, the Sami and Val plot feels extraneous and tacked onto the incredible of the space dog. This is by no means mitigated by the frame story, which sees a dog loose in the Unicorn Theatre being hunted down by a bazooka-wielding usher. Although hilarious, the bit is dropped halfway through the performance.
The Unicorn Theatre’s production of Laika teaches children about the perils of space travel and animal testing in one fell swoop. The moving adventure is an emotional journey for science fiction fans and dog lovers alike.
Suitable for ages 6 - 12
|What||Review: Laika, Unicorn Theatre|
|Where||The Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley St, London, SE1 2HZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Bridge (underground)|
24 Sep 17 – 12 Nov 17, Various times, see website
|Website||Click here for more information|