Elephant of My Heart – Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Greenside @ Nicolson Square

2016ELEPHAO_AAAElephant of My Heart at Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Venue 209), until 16 August.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

This is a truly wonderful piece of children’s theatre. In a hospital bed, Little Jess is fighting for her life.

We go beyond the bed and into her head where Jess meets an elephant – the ‘Elephant of her Heart’ – a part of her that can give her strength and companionship when she needs it most. And if ever a nine year old girl needed strength, it’s right now.

From the back of her elephant, Jess sees the world from a higher point of view: a clear analogy for adults, delivered in a subtle, friendly way for children to relate to. Chris Chambers is both composer and Elephant in the show. He has the most delightful, friendly voice, both spoken and sung, that you can see relaxing and reassuring the children in the audience.

The Elephant and Jess go on a journey, meeting other animals along the way. Each has a message to help her achieve recovery.  The music is perfectly judged in supporting both story and characters. The gentle level of audience participation is delightful – no shouting or stamping here – the children share in the journey by providing the clouds and the light of tiny creatures.

This show should be of interest to anyone involved in children’s theatre of the top standard or any families with obstacles to overcome.

A clever explanation of the darker side of life is embodied in the Panther, the other side of the Elephant: “I’m your strength when you feel weak.” The notion of turning fear into strength is handled with delicacy and clarity. As the Elephant returns and places Jess back in bed, it is genuinely moving.

Jessica Clements, the ‘real Jess’ as an adult, brings the show to its closes. As is fitting, she leads the room in visualisation – a meditation to take with us out into the world.

The honesty, simplicity and beauty in this work is a delight to witness, whether you have a child or not. Chambers is joined by his wife Nicky and their daughter Rosie as the nine-year-old Jess. The ensemble cast sustains the atmosphere throughout. A genuine delight and highly recommended.

Fiona Orr
Prospero Theatre
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