The Guardian


Clockheart Boy -- Cochrane, London
17/12/08 Lyn Gardner

If you want to try a little tenderness, then look no further than Clockheart Boy, a twisted fairytale with a big heart from promising young company, Dumbshow. Occupying the stage equivalent of that genre known in the books world as crossover literature, Clockheart Boy is set in a mysterious castle by the sea where a professor mourns for his lost daughter, Sophie, who disappeared years before.

Surrounded by his animated inventions, Gobble the Cook, Brolly, Bulb and Peepers, the Professor has abandoned the search for his lost child and retreated from the world. But when a boy with a hole where his heart should be is spied on the shore, it looks as if love will flood back into the castle. But there is something nasty locked in the wardrobe in the castle basement, and it is determined to get out.

Drawing on numerous fairytale references and featuring live piano accompaniment, this is an inventive, if sometimes slightly shambolic affair that boasts the same open-hearted sweetness and innocence of the doomed Clockheart Boy himself. Tighter storytelling and more all-round precision would help, but this is a story about emotional fragility, and the production’s frayed quality is used to good effect in an exquisite star-struck moment at the top of the castle and in the desperate re-enactment of Sophie’s disappearance. The move towards something darker is well handled, too, with the sudden cry of “daddy, I’m back!” sending a genuine shiver down the spine. It looks as pretty as a picture, and though it is not for the tiniest members of the family, Clockheart Boy marks the arrival of a fledgling company who may yet soar.