Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Collapsing Horse, 'Human Child': While the World is Full of Troubles

Smock Alley Theatre
Jun 25-Jul 6

My review of Human Child by Dan Colley coming up just as soon as I call on a courageous dragon ...

Fairies in Irish folklore get a bad rep. But then again, they do sneak into your house, steal your child, and leave in its place a dubious doppelganger called a Changeling.

For those of us forced to recite The Stolen Child in school - the W.B. Yeats poem about a child spirited away by the fairies from a world "more full of weeping than you can understand" - there has always been a curiosity in our minds. If  the human world is truly heartbreaking then what wonder would being 'away with the fairies' bring?

Such is the material for Collapsing Horse's new play for children, which imagines a world of fairies where 'weeping' is a torment to be shunned by constant playing, and what better inspiration for games than a child's overactive imagination. Lelia's father and peers protest at her superfluous sense of inventiveness (to be fair, if your classmates were playing a game called 'Taxes' wouldn't you want to shake things up a little?). A song summons her to a magical land where such skills are appreciated, by fairies whose intentions are not entirely clear.

On the creative winds of smash hit MONSTER/CLOCK, Collapsing Horse gallop into view with another show that is effortlessly accessible to audiences of all ages. Dan Colley's script doubles up to fire jokes at both adults and children. When Lelia asks the fairies if they've ever played Pirate Ship, one responds: "Is it like 'Relationship'? I played that once and I didn't like it".

A highly charged and charming cast lead us along a fantastic adventure, with additional appearances by Arron Heffernan's refined puppets. Designer Zia Holly pulls off one hell of a scene change, blanketing us with a sense of childlike wonder that blocks out the adult world, while Tom Lane's musical score sends us out singing to the gentle strains of a guitar.

It leaves you with a song in your heart, an immense sense of joy. It never condescends to correspond to its younger audience. In fact, Human Child packs the crushing truth: that there comes a time for the young to abandon their wild imaginations and assume the responsibilities of adolescence. But Collapsing Horse are contradiction to the contrary that such reckless faculties are to be lost completely. Defiant with age, steeped in craft, their inventive approach to theatre leaves you in awe and wonder, and likely nostalgic for sweeter times.

What did everybody else think?

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