Preview: The Sound of Cracking Bones

A tale of child soldiers looks at horror and redemption

THE SOUND OF CRACKING BONES (LE BRUIT DES OS QUI CRAQUENT) by Suzanne Lebeau, translated by Julia Duchesne and John Van Burek, directed by Van Burek, with Patricia Cano, Caity Quin and Harveen Sandhu. Presented by Pleiades Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Opens Wednesday (February 18) and runs to February 28, Wednesday-Saturday 7:30 pm French version runs March 3 to 7. $38, under 30 $17, senior $33. 416-504-7529

Harveen Sandhu’s latest role is one of the hardest she’s ever had to play: Elikia, a 13-year-old girl.

But it’s not just capturing a youngster that’s the challenge, for Elikia is a child soldier, abducted at age 10 and toughened into a merciless killer.

Elikia is one of three characters in Suzanne Lebeau’s The Sound Of Cracking Bones, translated from the French by Julia Duchesne and Pleaides Theatre director John Van Burek. We meet her as she takes a newly captured eight-year-old, Joseph, and flees with him from the rebels who have become her family.

“It was hard to get into Elikia, partly because she’s just discovering her femininity in this context. Not only is she expected to fight, but she’s seen as a female regardless of her age and used by the male soldiers as if she were a grown-up.

“I realized that it wasn’t simply a matter of how to play her young, for Elikia’s had to grow up really fast. She’s not a kid in school having sleepovers but someone who’s extremely hardened, tortured, angry and abusive herself as a result of the trauma she’s suffered.”

Lebeau intentionally doesn’t name where the action takes place the horrors of this play could occur in a number of locales. A third character, Angelina, a nurse in a children’s hospital, presents a frame for and commentary on the action.

“Angelina speaks to a commission of leaders, those with the power to do something about the existence of child soldiers. In the process, she brings up some serious questions about our duty to these children, whether they are victims or perpetrators, innocent or guilty, and how it is possible to rehabilitate them.”

Sandhu, a Ryerson grad who returns this summer to her third season at the Shaw Festival, speaks of a number of former child soldiers in Toronto who’ve been successfully reintegrated into society.

“The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative has been asking the international community to address the situation of these invisible children and make them visible.

“They’ve been made to do horrible things but they’ve also learned resilience. At the start of the play, Elikia realizes that she’s had enough of her life with the rebels, and Joseph is the catalyst for that moment. Over the course of the play she rediscovers her mothering and nurturing instincts.

“The tender moments between the two children are few and far between, but when they occur, the love and need each has for the other is powerful.”

After the production finishes its English run February 28, the show will be performed in the original French March 3 to 7.

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