It's impossible not to be beguiled by this promenade performance of Children of the Sea, a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Pericles. Members of the cast, aged between 14 and 19, were all victims of the Boxing Day tsunami. Traumatised by their experience of the sea and bereft of family and friends, a dozen or so Sri Lankan youngsters have been rebuilding their lives through the healing power of drama. Working with a core of professional actors, they enact the tale of the Prince of Tyre, his stormy encounters and tragic losses intertwined with their own fate and the worse threats to many other less fortunate children.
We are led, by the sound of flute, sitar and tabla, into a displaced people's camp, where out of the conflicting babble of the dispossessed, a story is spun to try and make sense of the general devastation. Each episode is engagingly linked by the genial Maori actor Rawiri Paratene in Shakespeare's story-telling role of Gower.
There are delightful touches of humour as well as pathos in the production which manages to avoid lapsing into sentimentality, despite the unhappy resonances of Pericles's loss and grief in the performers' own lives. The magical happy ending may be make-believe as far as the majority of tsunami victims are concerned, but one suspects from the potential of this project that it's not end of the story for these promising teenagers.
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