Burst of emotion

12th September 1997 at 01:00
Red Balloon. Visible Fictions Theatre Company. For 5 to 8-year-olds. Touring until September 30

Visible Fictions' latest piece of children's theatre, Red Balloon, is the play of the book of the long-ago film, the one with the haunting images of a balloon drifting over the Parisian rooftops. Albert Lamorisse's story of the lonely boy befriended by an inflatable that brings him both joy and sadness is, says director Annie Wood, "about friendship and love, and how you try to keep something precious".

It is also a genuine classic, a universal mirror to our human nature, at all times and for all ages a reflection of our feelings. In the East Kilbride primary school where I saw it, when at the end the balloon is deliberately burst by the hostile children, two of the audience were in tears; one was a P3 girl, the other a parent waiting to collect her son.

Afterwards, one of the P3 boys claimed that he "liked the bit best when the balloon was killed". Only a burst balloon, but all three, in their way, were responding to an image of death, and admitting the power of this piece of fascinating theatre.

Visible Fictions works as a collective, which means that for this production, it chose the play, cast it, and then invited Annie Wood to direct. Not many companies work this way, and those that do often make a deliberate trade-off between directorial vision and company involvement. In the try-out, pre-tour version of Red Balloon which I saw, the production may still have a good idea or two too many.

But despite the slight narrative fuzziness and loss of focus, typically committed performances from founder members Kate Brailsford, Gillian Robertson and Douglas Irvine urge the delicate story along, and they have the solid support, in every way, of Karen Tennent's set of mobile appartements, almost characters in their own right.

Touring theatres and schools in Edinburgh, Musselburgh, Paisley, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Tel: 0131 229 7404, ext 2137.

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