Grit (4 stars)

This article is from 2012

Grit - image coming

Powerful and quietly moving depiction of children in conflict

The new show from Scotland’s Tortoise in a Nutshell is barely three-quarters of an hour in length. Yet the journey it takes its audience on, both geographical and emotional, is extensive. The piece draws on real-life accounts by war correspondents to highlight the experiences of children in war zones. The three-strong company of performers draw on a variety of techniques to depict the moments in which their young characters cross over from innocence to experience.

From a scene in which a Ugandan boy playing with his toys in the sand takes up his first gun we move to a scene of young Western boys playing a graphic game of toy soldiers, complete with explosions and spilling guts. The cast then use shadow-puppetry to tell the story of Aki, a Cambodian who spent his youth laying landmines but grew up to become an anti-landmine campaigner. Most ingenious of all is the scene in which a city resembling Damascus is built from sheets of paper and cardboard boxes, and filled with pictures of people protesting.

These vignettes are wrapped within the recurring image of young Amy (an expressive, melancholic rod puppet), unpacking the tapes and pictures of her father, an overseas journalist. While quietly moving and stylistically inventive, Grit never feels preachy or emotionally manipulative. Instead it draws powerfully on the familiar paraphernalia of child’s play to highlight the very different experiences of children in different regimes around the world.

Bedlam Theatre, 225 9893, until 25 Aug, 8pm, £9 (£6).


  • 4 stars

Tortoise in a Nutshell. An intimate piece of visual puppet theatre, an exploration of the relationship between children and war, a search for hope in desolate landscapes. This quartet of tales, inspired by real situations of children in war, questions what innocence and imagination mean in a world of conflict. Told using…

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