Child’s play

Things aren’t what they used to be. Ellie Carr finds out why.

When the Jamie Bulger case hit the headlines over a year ago it rocked the nation. For Paula Leese. graduate director of Bristol University’s Ablaze Theatre Company. it was the spark that fired her to create Losing ll’omlerlaml. a physical theatre/multi-media production that sounds alarm bells for the loss of childhood innocence.

‘l‘ve got a younger sister who I saw not having the same childhood as me.‘ explains Leese. ‘Shc wasn‘t going out to play and exploring the woods and that sort of thing. l have a great interest in education that‘s what I'm going to go in to »- and the state of childhood really depresses me. so it was something I wanted to explore.‘

Leese began this exploration by persuading her cast to spout forth into a tape recorder with nuggets of information about their own childhoods. These candid confessions of paddling-pool days were then wound into a soundtrack. and then ultimately into a multi-media sensory extravaganza involving movement. video and projections.


It's a pretty abstract way to deal with

such a heavyweight topic. but Leese asserts that the company had no desire to take a soapbox stance. ‘What‘s become evident was that we couldn't take one viewpoint because that's just preaching. It's such a complicated issue that we couldn‘t do that. so the show is


Losing Wonderland: losing innocence

like a conglomerate of various different scenes from childhood. It's like a

massive hot-potch of images all linked

together in a very loose way.‘ I Losing Wonderland (Fringe) Ablaze Theatre Company. Hill Street Theatre

(Venue 4| ) 226 (i522. 27 Aug-2 Sept. 2.10pm. £4.50 (£3).


When Benchtours first unleashed their stage version of the Salman Rushdie story onto an unsuspecting public they received pretty much universal acclaim. No change this time around. Haroun and the Sea of Stories was the first book written by Salman Rushdie after the fatwah decree and it deals with humanity’s need for both stories and storytellers. While Rushdie himself has been keeping quiet on the subject, it is possible to draw connections between his own predicament and this play which is

sympathetic towards those who do not

enjoy free speech and must live surreptitious lives, scuttling from shadow to shadow until eventually becoming word weary and world weary. As if to underline his point that mankind has an unquenchable spiritual thirst for imagination- provoking tales and will risk anything to feed their need, Rushdie braved the fatwah and turned up unannounced at the original staging of the show in March earlier this year.

In Benchtours’ hands this wonderful children’s fable becomes a magical

.. ‘~‘

journey as we follow Haroun in his quest to save the sea of stories from the forces of evil. Simple and flashy enough for young children to understand yet also possessing enough depth and complex themes to keep adults interested this is a play that truly does have a universal appeal. Not content with merely exercising your brain the cast provide a complete visual overload, manipulating images as if they were practising origami. The show’s theme

Benchtours: on a road to freedom

celebrates imagination trouncing censorship, the world of the fantastic offering an unfettered escape from the grind of the mundane. Benchtours’ style, with its plastic glitter and surreal edges, seems a perfectly aimed-raspberry at tyrants everywhere. (Ronan O’Donnell)

Haraun and the Sea of Stories (Fringe) Benchtours, Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425, 21 Aug-2 Sept, (not 27) 2.15pm, £6 (£3.50).


The days of four-hour power lunches

are over so pound the streets and

catch some kulcha as tipped for the

top by Jonathan Trew. “it.


I What’s The Matter With Mary Jane? Self-doubt. self-loathing and self-abuse answer that one. This is a powerful tale of one woman’s battle against the 20th century scourges of anorexia and bulimia. Challenging and informative without being worthy.

What's The Matter With Mary Jane? (Fringe) Sydney Theatre Company. Assembly Rooms ( Venue 3) 226 2428. until Sept 2. l.3()pm. £7/f8 ( £6/f 7).

I Abigail’s Party BBC stalwarts Grant Smeaton and Ross Stenhouse play a drag version of Beverley and Laurence in Mike Leigh‘s perennial tale of bad taste and bitehiness. When this production played at the Arches in Glasgow earlier this year the punters to pew ratio was high.

Abigail 's l’arty (Fringe) Tangerine l’rmluetions, (ii/(led Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2/51, until 2 Sept. 2.30pm. £6.50 ((4.50).

I Highland Fling Local heroes the Happy Gang get together for an all-new show that's guaranteed to split young kids' faces into euphoric grins. Sing along to your heart‘s content as you hunt down Uncle McBeth‘s five prize haggis.

Highland Fling (Fringe) The Happy (iang. Diverse Attractions Theatre (Venue II) 225 896/, until 26 Aug. l.30pm. [2.50.

I Chinese Peking Opera Anyone who has even the slightest interest in the Orient should head to this three-hour banquet of Chinese music and folk dance. Delicate movements and stunning costumes will enchant. Part of the first Edinburgh Mela.

Chinese l’ 'kng ()pera (Fringe) lz'tlinlmtg/i Mela. Meadowbank Stadium (Venue [5]) 529 3/53. Sun 2 Sept. lpm. £8. 50 ( £5).

I The Big Book for Girls Hockey sticks ahoy! It's an all-girls school and hormones are running as high as the bitehiness. Far-fetched fun from a forgotten era with a twist in its tail.

The Big Book for Girls (Fringe) National Student Theatre Company. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. until 2 Sept. 2.05pm. £7/[8 (£7/f6).

The List 25 Aug-7 Sept I995 23