Metro

4/5

Clockheart Boy -- C Chambers Street, Edinburgh
12/8/08 Andrzej Lukowski

Dumbshow’s Clockheart Boy is a moving, visually astonishing, and in some ways very familiar production. Its hour and 15 minutes drift dreamily by in an amalgam of fairy tales old and new.

There are shades of Pinocchio, Edward Scissorhands, The Sugarplum Fairy, Pygmalion and even Noddy visible throughout. While familiarity may sometimes breed contempt, Dumbshow’s intimate knowledge of the language of the genre allows it to pack a wealth of detail, emotion and character into Clockheart Boy’s brief duration.

We’re taken into the enchanted, chaotic house of The Professor, a charismatic recluse whose daughter vanished 28 years earlier.

Since then he’s sought consolation in a ramshackle army of automata, each defined by a special characteristic – Peepers’ magical eyesight, Ears’ incredible hearing, Brolly’s umbrella on his head – but also delightful, distinct personalities in their own right. It’s the interaction between this charming, colourful gang that drives the play.

When they happen across a pure, sweet naif with a hole where his heart should be, The Professor fills the void with a timepiece and he’s welcomed into the gang as Clockheart Boy. With the lonely inventor/innocent surrogate child framework so instantly recognisable, Sam Gayton’s script is free to grow sadder and darker, with nobody apart from poor Clockheart Boy proving a true innocent.

Another 15 minutes wouldn’t hurt one bit, but Gayton packs in an astonishing amount, while the concluding five minutes’ bittersweet beauty might very well stop your heart, too.