One Thousand Paper Cranes

Abigail Docherty
Catherine Wheels Theatre Company
Assembly George Square

Based on a true story, this simple, witty and heartfelt show will appeal to children and inner children alike. It tells the true story of Sadako, a 12-year-old Japanese girl who in 1955 was discovered to have radiation sicknesss as a result of the Hiroshima bomb ten years before. Up until her diagnosis she had been a tremendously active child, as testified here by her best friend, chief cheerleader and "coach" Chiziko.

Once it becomes clear that there will be no more training for future school sports days for Sadako, the two girls instead decide to focus on making a thousand paper cranes, having heard that this achievement will bring the maker luck, and of course, therefore, life. When the girls run out of paper they run around the hospital frantically stealing paper hairnets and tearing wallpaper from the walls.

This story does not have a happy ending, you may have guessed - Sadako dies before they can make a thousand. But Chiziko finds that family, friends and fellow hospital inmates have been so inspired by the attempt that everyone contributes to making the remaining cranes needed to make it one thousand. And the story spreads; now, at the Hiroshima monument, you'll find a statue of Sadako and cage after cage stuffed full of paper cranes that have been sent from all over the world.

Julia Innocenti as Sadako and Rosalind Sydney as Chiziko bring a lovely, barmy energy to the show. The fun of their boisterous make-believe is infectious - they play at training for the Olympics, at running up mountains with no supplies but a bar of Toblerone and a jam sandwich.

There are other nice touches in Abigail Docherty's script, such as the stern matron being in fact a frustrated trapeze artist who always wanted to run away to the circus and "just wear pants all day".

The paper birds, once folded, are finished by having air blown into them through a tiny hole so that their bodies puff out: it's a moving image, suggesting life breathed into these inanimate objects, which are of course so much more than just flakes of dead wood. Their symbolic importance is huge. This is a lovely show, with an effective design from Karen Tennent, and amazing wreaths of paper cranes made by Lara Armitage - by the end there surely must be a thousand on stage.

Reviewer: Corinne Salisbury

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