The story of Sadako Sasaki has become synonymous with the devastating events in Hiroshima on that fateful, world changing day in 1945. While she initially survived the atomic blast, she was soon hospitalised with radiation poisoning. She attempted to make a thousand paper cranes, believing the Japanese tradition that says that once you complete it, you are will be granted one wish. She never made her target but people still honour her memory by placing a thousand cranes in the grounds of the Peace Memorial museum.
With such a powerful topic, an adaptation could practically write itself, since it is literally dripping with dramatic and emotional possibilities. So you can’t help but marvel at playwright Abigail Docherty, for churning out such a pedestrian tale.
In its defence the play is aimed towards both adults and young children. The latter will love the playful relationship between Sadako and her best friend Chiziko as she visits her everyday, but for the adults it’s a strange watch. With the plot being so careful as to not upset the little ones, the story is filled with endless play times and an odd side-story about a hospital matron with a hankering to become a trapeze artist. You can’t help but wish the show had the bravery to deal with the very subject matter its alluding to.
So careful are they that in her final days Sadako doesn’t seem especially ill, nor even dies on stage, instead it is merely announced to her friend. Furthermore none of the characters are especially likeable, with both Julia Innocenti and Rosalind Sydney playing the children as loud, annoying, hyperactive brats when really the story would benefit greatly if they were younger, more vulnerable to their surroundings.
On a positive note, there are some beautiful moments; the simple but effective sound effects of the blast, a cleaner explaining to them in child-like terms about what an atomic bomb is and a moving finale with some imaginative stage production of raining paper cranes all bring a smile and a tear to the audience. Well intentioned if a bit meandering this play could have been a lot better.