Writer: Jimmy Grimes, from the novel by Mathias Malzieu
Director: Jimmy Grimes
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
The Boy With The Cuckoo Clock Heart from Magpie Puppet Company is a quite beautiful whimsical fable. It follows the adventures of Jack, who is born with such a weak heart that he seems unlikely to survive. Fortunately, he is delivered by Dr Madeleine, who fashions him a pacemaker made of clockwork. This has limited power, so he is unable to get overexcited; in particular, he must not fall in love. Abandoned by his mother, for ten years he is cared for by Dr Madeleine until he wants more freedom. Ignoring the doctor’s advice, he falls in love with a singer at a freakshow run by the uncaring Mr Heim. Jack then gets into trouble with the school bully and has to run away to France. While there, he has to face the limitations of his clockwork heart, and the impact of it and his choices on his life and on that of those who love him.
For most of the play, Jack is a puppet, skilfully manipulated by various members of the cast in turn and voiced by Ed Howells, who catches the mood of the little boy really well. The puppetry is so very skilful that the illusion is quite perfect, and one cannot help but project emotion onto the unmoving face. However, at times the pace flags just slightly with some pauses just too long for comfort. Martyn Dempsey’s Mr Heim is domineering, loud and brash. He also acts as an ebullient narrator. Maddie Gould’s caring Dr Madeleine is well performed. However, the weaker link in the cast is Nadia Babke’s Acacia, Jack’s love interest. While Babke is skilful as one of the team operating puppet-Jack, and an accomplished musician, her performance as Acacia is curiously flat and her singing voice is thin and reedy. Nevertheless, the whole is very moving, aided by the staging, lighting and supremely good puppetry. One certainly had to pretend there was something in my eye several times, starting with Jack’s rejection by potential adoptive parents because of his differences from other boys. Do not be fooled by the presence of puppets, however; this is not just a tale for children, but equally enjoyable for all ages.
The Boy With The Cuckoo Clock Heart is thoroughly charming and comes highly recommended for children and adults alike.
Runs until 27th August