'The Girl With No Heart' – Sparkle and Dark
‘The Girl with No Heart’ is a powerful piece inspired by child victims’ accounts of the atomic bombings in Japan at the end of the Second World War. It focuses particularly on their struggles with loss, and attempts to make sense of the chaos through story and dreams.
The central character, Samura imagines herself leaving behind a perfect life with her mother – in a world where she doesn't know what death means – through an archway to mystery and adventure. She finds herself in a grey land of ash where she meets an ashen boy. Sparkle and Dark’s production succeeds in making the leap from real events to fiction, all tinged with the quality of myth.
The puppets are engaging, well-crafted and brilliantly manipulated. There are shadows, masks on hands, half-body puppets with human legs, transforming scenic modules and paper cranes of all sizes. The duo that perform the character Ike are in delicious unison, one resting a delicate hand on the other's neck as they give him life, so that we only occasionally notice them at work. Louisa Ashton, Ike's head, legs and left hand, is also the writer, and Shelley Knowles-Dixon, his right hand, the maker.
Shimbo (Richard Booth) is moving in his stillness, as he waits for his sister Bibi to come back, although she never will; we learn she has had her heart stolen by the Adult Army who have torn it in two. I also particularly enjoy the characterisation of the tiny little girl, Lili, who appears later on, dancing about Samura's feet, and the moment when Samura and Ike fly away to the safety of the children's town on a giant paper crane.
As Samura, Ceridwen Smith unfortunately employs the tired clichés of little girl acting – pigeon toes, playing with her feet... It’s a shame since, as she demonstrates towards the end of the piece, she is capable of great emotional depth. Her desolation is dark and empty as she (spoiler alert) pathetically folds paper cranes, waiting for Ike to come back. Tragically, he too has been snatched by the Adult Army. Whether the early ‘little girl acting’ is her own or the director's desire, it is a weak point in what is otherwise a show with little to fault it.
The burgeoning friendship, tinged with the possibility of teenage romance, between Ike and Samura is touching and gives tremendous power to the ending. I like that this show, which is billed for ages 8+, has a tragic ending. Even so, it is also hopeful, never completely abandoning dream and imagination.
'The Girl With No Heart'
Sparkle and Dark
Little Angel Theatre