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By: Peter Hayes Directed By: Jaqueline Dommisse Puppet Design: Janni Younge Design: Illka Louw (set) Hillette Stapelberg (costume) Paul Abrams (lighting) Uebu Jemasu (sound) Koos Marais (miniatures) Sadako’s Song: Godfrey Johnson

On the 6 August 1945, America, in an attempt to end hostilities in the Pacific, dropped the first atom bomb ever used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima; an industrial city on the west coast of Honshu, the largest island of the Japans. Sadako Sasaki, then just two years old was at home a mere 1,7 kilometres from the epicentre of the massive explosion.
Miraculously she was uninjured after the explosion despite the house being utterly destroyed. Some ten years later she was found to be suffering with leukaemia or “atom bomb disease” as it was known in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the post war years. During her months in hospital after her diagnosis, she folded 1500 paper cranes using the Japanese art of origami (paper folding). Following Japanese folk- lore, she believed that by folding 1000 cranes she would be granted a wish by the gods. Naturally her wish was for healing. After achieving her first goal of 1000 folded cranes and despite being short of paper, she continued folding cranes, this time to wish for world peace and an end to hostility among the human race. Sadly she died in October 1955. Her story has lives on in the book “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” and serves as an inspiration to many who campaign for nuclear disarmament and world peace.
A Statue in memory of Sadako Sasaki has been erected in Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Japan.

The Hearts and Eyes Theatre Collective have taken Peter Hayes’ adaptation of this beautifully inspiring story and using Banraku, a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre, staged Sadako at the Baxter Flipside Theatre. Director Jaqueline Dommisse, has crafted a beautiful spectacle. Wonderfully graceful puppets in many ways bring an enhanced human element to the story. Each gesture and movement becomes a heartfelt expression of love between friends and family. In our cultural distance from the people of Japan, and their suffering through the war years (1937 to 1945) and the more recent tsunami devastation of eastern Japan’s coastal areas, it is hard to imagine how this resilient people have coped so ably. Sadako gives us an insight into their culture and suffering during these hard times. The atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had far reaching implications for Japan. To this day it is not clear wether the after-effects of the two bombs have abated.
A striking set by Illka Louw and Koos Marais on two scales paints a picture of the simple joys of Japanese family life and culture. Cherry blossoms folded in origami style adorn trees. Crafted origami cranes are scattered across the stage making the story even more real to the watcher. The cast of puppeteers move in sympathy with the puppets, never intrusive, always choreographed. Lighting and sound are in total empathy and Godfrey Johnson’s “ Sadako’s Song” brings a haunting tone to the piece. Of particular note is the re-enactment of the atomic explosion, jarring through the peaceful setting, and cutting into the emotions. Sadako is an insight, profound and striking into the lives of ordinary Japanese folk living in the wake of a disaster. It is about human suffering and optimism in the face of death. It will bring you closer to an understanding of humanity living in struggle and coping in adversity.

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