Every year 3,500 heart transplants are performed worldwide and roughly 800,000 people need a new organ. Heartbreak Soup follows the story of 11-year-old Cuddy Gill, a boy with a big imagination and a ‘broken’ heart.
With the help of The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) and the Wellcome Trust, Laura Lindow developed ideas inspired from the experience of working at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne with dramaturg Beccy Smith to produce this magical play. The strong production of only two cast members who remained onstage throughout proffers answers to many questions that must rise for families involved in such procedures, through a charismatic story that is simply bursting with life.
Cuddy’s heart problem has plagued him since he was born and makes him very different, something that he celebrates – he likens the attributes this gives him to those of a superhero. We join him on his imaginative journey to getting his second heart transplant as he begins to try to find answers, joined by his invisible friend, the equally charming Dan. Completely tactless Dan teases Cuddy mercilessly about Cuddy’s struggle to break free of his mother’s omnipresent and overprotective eye. Through their almost familial relationship they personify ideas about what certain medical terminology may mean from what they have clearly overheard by creating a villainous monster to describe the role that his aorta plays in Cuddy’s life.
It enchants children and adults alike, playing on the innocent imaginations characteristic of young children through the two characters and their firm friendship. The contagious energy that Scott Hoatson and James Young lend to the show makes it very believable and compelling to watch as well, as do the innumerable props produced from the hospital bed itself.
Designer and puppet creator Verity Quinn and Alison McGowan embellished the story with skillful puppetry that embodied the different characters in Cuddy’s storytelling, adding another dimension to the already visually rich story. Sound designer Albi Gravener uses creative ways to signify Cuddy slipping in and out of consciousness mid operation and by making the many locations of his memories a reality.
The seemingly endless resources in recounting the most important bits of the “Life and Times of Cuddy Gill” draws on the childlike idea that love and memories are physically stored in his heart and are what makes him, him.
Though very entertaining and humorous, and despite the simplistic language, Lindow has done very well to convey the darker issues associated with such a life-changing operation by dispersing facts throughout.
With its unexpected and heart wrenching twists Heartbreak Soup captures the very essence of what makes young imaginations so magical and courageous in the face of adversity.
Heartbreak Soup is playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 1st July. For more information and tickets, see the website here.