The Guardian


Clockheart Boy -- C Chambers Street, Edinburgh
7/8/08 Maddy Costa

No mention is made of a costume designer in the programme for Clockheart Boy, yet the costumes are the most striking and wonderful thing about it. In a show aimed as much at children as at adults, this is no bad thing. From the fancifully embroidered white coat of the Professor to the militaristic suit of stiff-minded Bulb, from the charity-shop mish-mash sported by kleptomaniac Grabby to the geeky pullover worn by sweet, guileless Clockheart Boy, every outfit at once delineates the character behind it and keeps eyes entranced.

The visual exuberance also heightens the atmosphere of innocent wonder, which the cast of 12 maintain even as the story they’re telling turns midnight-dark. The Professor and his companions, each possessor of a cartoonish super-power, live locked in a castle by the sea. They have been conducting a search from here for the Professor’s missing daughter, Sophie, for more than 28 years. Her disappearance is discussed in hushed tones; even less is said about the cruel robot replacement for Sophie which the misguided Professor once built. When the group notice a boy washed up on the nearby shore, it seems that he might console the Professor and give new meaning to his life. But perhaps Clockheart Boy is just too naive to survive, even in this secluded world.

There is such a lovely, wide-eyed, fairy-tale quality to this show, that when things turn nasty it ought to be a terrible shock. Somehow it isn’t – and that is the play’s weakness. But if the ending isn’t as emotionally resonant as it ought to be, the journey towards it is full of charms, not least a rooftop scene in which Clockheart Boy learns about the stars, and the revelation of how Sophie disappeared all those years before.

The performances are so tender, the characters can’t fail to steal your heart.