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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Running on the Cracks, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Three stars

YOU couldn't fault this adaptation of Julia Donaldson's novel for being short of themes. In 90 minutes, it ticks off bereavement, child abuse, missing people, drug addiction, mental illness, multiculturalism and the search for identity. Throw in a cat-and-mouse chase across the country, and you have the kind of sensationalist narrative that plays well to the target teenage audience.

Katie Posner's production, in this Tron/Pilot collaboration, is at its best when the stakes are high and Jessica Henwick's beautiful Leonora Watts-Chan, a 15-year-old runaway, struggles to know which way to turn. After being orphaned, she has fled the home of her predatory uncle in Bristol to go in search of an estranged Chinese grandfather in Glasgow. With tremendous physical presence, Henwick captures the sense of adolescent righteousness, passion and confusion of a girl trying to create order in an unfair universe.

For as long as the show focuses on her dilemma, it remains gripping. Things get uneven when Donaldson's other themes take over, particularly when Leonora falls into an odd netherworld of well-meaning but erratic psychiatric out-patients.

Stuck awkwardly between comedy and tragedy, these scenes are a distraction – largely because the story is not about mental illness. As with the other themes, it is an idea appended to the narrative and not fundamental to it; more like a topic for classroom discussion than a dramatic device. The same is true of the abusive uncle. He functions as a symbol of an unreliable adult word, but is too sketchily portrayed to be more than a gratuitous bogeyman.

What the story is really about – Leonora and her Little Red Riding Hood journey of self-discovery – is obscured by the extraneous material from the novel. It is a weakness compounded by the unresolved ending, one that lessens the impact of the excitement that has preceded it.
© Mark Fisher, 2013
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