As the audience enter the auditorium for One Thousand Paper Cranes, they meet 12-year-olds Sadako (Julia Innocenti) and Chiziko (Ros Sydney). The former training for a race, the latter on stopwatch as coach. Chiziko runs up and down the auditorium gleefully – a jovial start to a play about terminal illness.
Based on a true story, Abigail Docherty's play tells the tale of Sadako Sasaki, a girl from Hiroshima, who in 1955 fell ill with radiation sickness. Chiziko, her best friend, learns from an elderly cleaning lady that, if she and Sadako folded a thousand origami cranes, any wish they asked for would come true. And so, in the hope that Sadako would recover for school sports day, the two girls set out together on the seemingly impossible task, demonstrating steely determination and devotion.
In addition to playing these two little girls, both actors perform as a host of vibrant characters, each accessible and understandable to children. This is ostensibly a show for children and young audience members are entirely enraptured by its magic. White cranes drift from the ceiling like snowflakes: Innocenti and Sydney use sleight-of-hand to make them appear as if from thin air and long, technicoloured streams of paper birds are revealed from unexpected parts of the stage.
But dozens of adults were sitting beaming too, just as enthralled as their pre-adolescent counterparts. Its wondrously inventive, low-tech charms and warmly simple message of hope endear this show to both young and old.