Guest Blog: The Rise of the Unicorn

For our latest blog, Nick Field talks about how popular unicorns have become as the current political landscape becomes darker.

Unicorn Party by Nick Field arrives at CPT on Tue 11 Dec – Wed 12 Dec at 9pm. Click here to find out more.

It started from a realisation that I was seeing unicorns everywhere I went.

And then, more and more I noticed them. Unicorns were blowing up. On instagram and youtube, people dressing as them, creating looks inspired by them, trying products themed after them. And increasingly they became a marketing dream as the phenomenon took off. Paperchase filled its windows with them, there was unicorn poop, unicorn snot lip gloss, unicorn tears gin; unicorns seemed to be able to be used to sell everything. Teetering somewhere between kitscy-cool, downright schmaltzy and a defiant emblem of queer self-expression, the unicorn myth had hit a highly visable contemporary peak. Why had the world gone unicornicrazy?

Now, I’m no stranger to disappearing into fantasy as a real life avoidance strategy. But it was interesting to me that as world events and home politics got darker and darker, unicorns were getting so popular, and so marketable. I also found fascination in the sort of fantasy narratives that were emerging around right wing politics as far right fringe tactics have started to creep into the mainstream. How, for example, nationalistic myths and fantasies could be used to sell people something that was against their own interests. Fantasy, it seems, has become more than recreational binging of Game of Thrones, it’s now a factor in the political landscape. Which is when fantasy starts to take a more dangerous turn.

This is the territory that Unicorn Party explores. When I started out on the project last year it was very much about following questions all this raised. Along the way I discovered that the unicorn myth has been with us since the earliest civilisations. The journey of the unicorn myth across history mirrors the various forms of colonialism and ideologies it spread with. There’s something about this figment of the human imagination that perseveres and shifts through eras across centuries. As I was also exploring the narratives and obsessions in populist, extreme right wing and fascist movements, I saw a cross-over. Purity and purification has been a central concept in the spread of facist thinking. Unicorns have been a symbol of purity across cultures and incarnations. In Unicorn Party I draw on this crossover, put the two together and create a reimagined Britain on a trajectory into becoming a unicornifacist state to ask questions about what the rise of fantasy, and the rise of the far right tell us about now.

But it wouldn’t be a show about unicorns without lewks, glitter and a ton of sugar. In my work I’m really interested in playing with things that are at different ends of a spectrum or things that seem trashy to explore searching questions about the state of the world. I’m also really excited by creating visual poetry as part of the texture of a theatre piece, and that’s something I’ve worked with in Unicorn Party. This is also the first show I’ve fully scored, and I’m really thrilled with the dimensions that’s bought to the work. Unicorn Party is fun, it’s surreal and it’s dexterous, with a sting in the horn.