Theatre: Real life facts and fairy tales

Change of Heart

Young Vic Studio

Issue-driven theatre has an uphill battle to win hearts and minds at the best of times. Pricking the conscience at Xmas, then, when most audiences expect nothing more demanding than the brain tinsel of panto, needs fine judgement.

A fifteen year old girl with Down's Syndrome is the inspiration for Strathcona Theatre Company's ambitious . Jo Harris needs a heart lung transplant which her learning disability prevents her from receiving in this country.

Dramatically, the true story of Jo Harris has the tragic clarity and moral resonance that suits the fable it has inspired. "We've adapted Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen into a fantasy Christmas fairy-tale" explains the director Ian McCurrach, "but Jo's situation gives it a serious underlying message." The classic folk tale of the Snow Queen, who quests ceaselessly to find a new heart, at a personal level obviously touches on Jo's plight, but the Strathcona production ought to be an eloquent ethical assertion that quality of life is not directly proportional to mental ability.

In drawing a starkly topical parable from its folklore roots, deploys mime, dance and text and, like its critically acclaimed previous productions An Error of Judgement and Breaking the Mould, has been devised by the artistic directors with an ensemble of performers with learning disabilities.

To 20 Dec pounds 8 (concs pounds 4) 0171-928 6363; Young Vic Studio, 66 The Cut, South Bank, London SE1 8LZ. (Proceeds from the 13 December performance will go towards a fund to pay for a heart-lung transplant operation for Jo in the USA.)

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