By Danielle Farrow
Collapsing Horse’s Human Child is based on changeling myths and poetry by WB Yeats, using a refrain from ‘The Stolen Child’: “Come away, O human child! / To the waters and the wild / With a faery, hand in hand, / For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
The idea of weeping – of allowing through the pain that is suffered by a child who has imagination, but no similar playfellows, who focuses on a toy rat as friend now Mum is no longer around, and who finds it hard to reach a father who cares, but must focus on practical matters – is explored via an attempt to avoid it. The fairies have their own, selfish way, to avoid ‘the weeping‘, and draw the child into their world for this, substituting a changeling. Help is on hand, though, via the rat and the rat’s love – a bear with a chained heart (to keep the broken pieces together) – and a wise blacksmith who works close to the stars.
Using song, musical instruments and a looper, along with plenty of humour, the four actors weave their magic with energetic and suitably large performances, only sometimes losing lyrics to over-loud music and intelligibility to heavy accents or the putting on of a voice or facial attribute for comic affect. A bed on wheels proves versatile for different settings, has rolls of material which become land and sea scapes, and – particularly memorable to a child in the audience – births a great tent for fairyland which, to this child, was a ‘castle’ – imagination beautifully stimulated. Swift changes to costume and the use of puppetry allows shadow play and multiple characters, all of which the actors are able to embody clearly.
Some social issues lightly glanced upon, with insight, good humour and wit, include gender equality, the loss of childhood to adult concerns, differences between parents and children, and love between those of the same gender. There is no hammering home or fuss-making about these, and the key message of acceptance and understanding that there is pain in life, but there is also joy, and love and hope, likewise shines through. Emphasis, though, is very much on fun, with puns, puckish playing and plenty of fine comedy moments, often in child and adult behaviour that everyone can recognise.
Human Child layers its thoughts, lines and delivery so that there is something for everyone – a well-conceived and strongly performed piece of entertainment, and one with heart.
Human Child 31-24 August, 12:50 (13:50) @ Underbelly, Cowgate