Preview: The Sound of Cracking Bones

THE SOUND OF CRACKING BONES (LE BRUIT DES OS QUI CRAQUENT) by Suzanne Lebeau, translated by Julia Duchesne and John.

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 Sandhus latest role is one of the hardest shes ever had to play: Elikia, a 13-year-old girl.

But its not just capturing a youngster thats 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 Lebeaus 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 shes just discovering her femininity in this context. Not only is she expected to fight, but shes 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 wasnt simply a matter of how to play her young, for Elikias had to grow up really fast. Shes not a kid in school having sleepovers but someone whos extremely hardened, tortured, angry and abusive herself as a result of the trauma shes suffered.

Lebeau intentionally doesnt 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 childrens 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 whove been successfully reintegrated into society.

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

Theyve been made to do horrible things but theyve also learned resilience. At the start of the play, Elikia realizes that shes 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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