Watching Pleiades Theatre’s production of The Sound Of Cracking Bones, directed by John Van Burek, left me disappointed, not because I felt as though it was a poorly made piece of work, but because it didn’t feel as though the ideas put on stage really capitalized on what it was that was trying to be expressed.
The show aims to paint a more universal portrait of the plight of child soldiers in third world countries. It tells the story of 13-year-old Elikia leading eight-year-old Joseph to freedom from their warlords.
This show was in no way a horrendous representation of the issues at hand. There were indeed many interesting ideas put forth that I believe simply didn’t live up to their fullest potential.
That being said, there were many aspects of the show that seemed to have worked well in retrospect, particularly in terms of creating a more dynamic setting. To begin with, the show began with two trees on stage, making up almost all the set pieces on stage (not including the table and chair stage left for the nurse). Throughout the performance, these two trees created several different locations within the desolate forest setting in which the play takes place.
During about the second half, the trees on stage began to rotate, creating an entirely new area in the forest all together. This worked well, as it both aided in creating a new setting for the children to get lost in and keep us (the audience) in our mode of discomfort, not allowing us to ground ourselves in one location.
What I also found particularly interesting about this show was the use of the sound and the way in which it melded together with the action on stage. A scene in which this was particularly effective was that which had displayed Elikia trembling in fear as she analyzed what it was that she found on the ground, which just ended up being a coconut. The dynamic of the scene could not have worked without the tension building drone of the dissonant soundscape. The gradual build of the drone most definitely helped evoke the heart wrenching fear that Elikia had been haunted with during every moment of her life.
The performances themselves seemed to have left me rather disappointed, particularly that of the nurse, whose sympathy for the victim fell flat, presenting a character who seemed too reserved for her own good. The other two characters, though maintaining wonderful chemistry on stage, seemed slightly over rehearsed, moving with sharp precision that lacked organic flow.
All in all, there is most definitely something here, though it seems as though Pleiades Theatre did not fully take advantage of the resources they were given. I look forward to seeing this show remounted in the future.
The English-language premiere of The Sound of Cracking Bones, written by Suzanne Lebeau, is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille until Feb. 28. It will be playing at the same location in French from March 3-7.