Fringe Review


Clockheart Boy -- C Chambers Street, Edinburgh
11/8/08 Leon Conrad

Low Down:

As this play unfolds, we find ourselves in a fascinating insulated world in which weighty themes such as death, separation, creation, reality, love, truth and responsibility are tackled head-on with insight, intelligence and respect.

The action unfolds in the castle of a professor who is gifted at making automata. Each has a particularly acute faculty – Bulb’s head lights up, another is capable of seeing only what is true, another has exceptionally acute hearing, but the best of all is the ensemble’s musical director, Rollo Clarke, in the role of the pianist, who provides classy improvised music which punctuates and supports the action on and off throughout the play. The main thrust of the story is the professor’s attempt to find his lost daughter, first in denial, then in the failed attempt to make an automaton replica of her. And finally, a decision to search in places he’s never thought of looking before. No sooner has he started out than he finds a young boy without a heart.

He saves the young boy’s life by giving him a clock as a heart. Thus equipped, the boy sets out to find out more about the world, keenly aware of what his heart is telling him. He finds magic, beauty and evil. He learns about stars and constellations, and we see his awe as he gazes at their splendour. He learns to dance. He learns to love. He finds the automaton of the professor’s daughter, which leads to his downfall.

The professor decides to continue his search, looking inside his heart. A touching ending – movingly simple – makes this a memorable piece of theatre.


Inventive costumes and ample stage magic keep the audience entertained throughout. The production by the cast of 12 plus supporting staff which form the innovative company Dumbshow boasts a superb retelling of the story of Plato’s Cave staged simply, yet without losing an iota of power or clarity. The company benefits from having a cast who whether musically trained or not, are clearly extremely responsive to the music which is being played. The thought behind the production goes deep, but intellectualism never gets in the way of telling the story. Kids in the audience were enthralled and an older friend reduced to tears.

The ‘Melanchorus’ of characters surrounding the professor were well characterised, but mainly through the actors’ skills. It would have been more rewarding in terms of the theatrical experience to have dedicated a small section of the script to exploring the characters and offering a greater insight into how they came about, the relationships each had with the professor and amongst themselves and the precise relationship between reason and emotion within the automata which makes up a considerable part of the exploration of Clockheart Boy’s character.