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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: A Thousand Paper Cranes (Wildside)

Why Sadako Sasaki?
The Bomb's impact and metaphors continue
by Nanette Soucy

Geordie Productions made a brief stop at the Centaur for the last weekend of the 15th Annual Wildside Festival to present A Thousand Paper Cranes, The Weapons of Peace, the high school version of their annual school tour.  Created by Paula Wing and Micheline Chevrier, A Thousand Paper Cranes tells the story of an ambitious 11-year-old runner named Sadako, growing up in the years following the attacks on Hiroshima, and the impact of the catastrophe on her family.

Sadako’s brother, played by Nicholas Santillo, propels the story.

Alongside Sadako, her attitudinal and cynical teenage brother, and her light-hearted and patient mother, learn that she has fallen ill from a radiation sickness. Throughout the course of the story, the cast of three explains the historical context and decisions that led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while in the elementary version, kids are treated to a biology lesson on the cancerous effects of radiation, as Sadako’s disease progresses.

While the actors describe various details of the logistics behind the bombings, the importance of documenting the impact, and the cruelty and importance of the questions that are asked before anybody can make the decision to annihilate a city the size of Halifax, they learn to fold paper into cranes, and tend to the Zen Garden that is James Lavoie’s versatile and striking set.

Sadako’s brother, played by Nicholas Santillo, propels the story. He rebels against the traditions created to honour the end of the war, as he perpetuates the stigma and discrimination faced by Hibakusha, the survivors who show signs of being affected by the atomic blast.  Through her brother’s tantrums, illness and hospital stays, Jennifer Roberts’ Sadako never ceases to do, do, do, and in doing, keeps herself 11, active, playful, curious, and alive, as death inevitably approaches. That’s why we continue to tell the story of Sadako Sasaki. 

A Thousand Paper Cranes is not another story of innocent victims of WWII facing adversity against the odds. It is the story of survivors living with that adversity. Sadako’s reluctance to admit her illness, even as a child, reflects the real impact of the stigma faced by survivors of traumatic events even today.  We want to be tough, we want to be invincible, and we want to run the fastest. Sometimes forces completely out of our control get in our way, but although we are powerless to change the events of the world, we can keep ourselves alive by doing something. Even if that something is just folding paper.

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