Clockheart Boy

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Edie Livesey

at 10:14 on 14th Aug 2011

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For a play billed as a family show, Clockheart Boy was oddly short on families; however the mostly adult audience had plenty to keep them entertained. As in many of the best works of children’s literature, Sam Gayton’s characters are childlike but entrusted with adult responsibilities. This allowed for plenty of jokes for the grown ups, including an amusing Jamie Oliver imitation and a retelling of Plato’s famous cave allegory using, appropriately, shadow puppetry.

In places the play was genuinely dark and shocking. Sophie (Hester Bond)’s reappearance from the wardrobe was frightening, as was the scene on the rooftop. Elsewhere there were some really endearing moments. The scene that shows Peepers (Lotte Allen) and the Clockheart Boy (Michael Bryher) under the stars is particularly lovely.

The link between the heart of the Clockheart Boy and the ability to feel love was too reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz. It is developed slightly to address the wider theme of the search for answers, but it still seems to belong more to the earlier work than to this one. The Professor (Ed Hancock)’s “What a wonderful question!” however almost saved the ending, which was otherwise disappointing, and seemed to have been cut so that it didn’t quite make sense. Why was it wrong to heal the Clockheart Boy?

The real joy of this production is in the energy of the cast and the inventiveness of the choreography and lighting. Particular highlights were the fairy light constellations, the flashes of light as the Clockheart Boy was shocked into life, the creation of the telescope and the dance in the lesson on love. The first appearance of the frozen characters in the wardrobe is also fun.

A part of the play’s atmosphere is derived from the background piano music that continues for the most part of the performance. Rollo Clarke’s score was beautiful, but I got quite tired of hearing broken chords after an hour and a quarter, and I felt there could have been more times when the piano was silent.

Gayton’s touching and witty script addresses central themes of love, friendship, jealousy, grief and finally acceptance in a way that brings a lump to your throat. The characters are almost always played with conviction. The potential of the set, costume and lighting is extremely well exploited. Just sort out the ending and it will be really fantastic.

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Rhiannon Kelly

at 10:40 on 14th Aug 2011

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Colourful and innovative, ‘Clockheart Boy’ is a wonderful kaleidoscope of eccentric characters, playful storytelling and striking visuals; a feast for the senses that still manages to touch the hearts of both adults and children alike.

A boy with no heart is washed up on shore; taken in by the professor and his mad bunch of creations, he learns about life, love and friendship. This patchwork fairytale delights and moves, but like any real classic, has a dark and twisted centre. The naivety of Clockheart boy is a contrast to the weary and grief-stricken professor, who we learn is still searching for his daughter that he lost over 15 years ago. This weaving of past and present, young and old, love and loss, adds a depth to what could have been a predictable storyline. It is much more than just a bedtime story.

‘Dumbshow’ excels in creating strong visual images. The colourful set consists of a washing line, sheet music, equations and maps hanging above the stage, and the cobbled together costumes are just as delightful. This evokes a child-like aesthetic, but also gets across the wonder of knowledge and the desperate attempt to comprehend of the world around us; something that all the characters are yearning for, but admits that they, like we, will never know all of earth’s mysteries. What’s important is making the life you have worth living, and this production is a testament to the strange beauty of human existence.

The company has a great rapport with each other and the audience. As each character danced around the stage, I genuinely wanted to put on an umbrella hat and jump around with them. The live music is beautifully incorporated, and they make good use of a simple, but exciting array of props. While some scene changes are not as slick as they could be, the action generally flows well, and they maintain just the right balance of fun with the more emotional scenes bringing us back to the melancholy reality of the situation.

The grief of the professor was depicted with real sensitivity, and the emotional sniffs from the boy sitting in front of me (and, admittedly, myself) is testament to the power of this company to evoke real feeling from an audience, even when wearing such elaborate and ridiculous outfits. However, the ending of the production was not as poignant as it could have been, and while the story needs to be clear for the children in the audience, I felt that the last few monologues were more tell than show, which detracted from what could have been a truly moving affair.

This bright young company are destined for great things. ‘Clockheart Boy’ stole my heart, and I look forward to what ‘Dumbshow’ have to offer in the future.

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