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I Hope My Heart Goes First

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Ignore the gory publicity image: this astonishing show is actually a sweet-natured, brave and highly accomplished look at all matters of the heart, from love and heartbreak to cardiac arrest. Devised by Glasgow-based youth theatre company Junction 25, it has a strongly autobiographical feel and draws heavily on the personal experiences of the exceptional 12- to 17-year-old performers.

Even young Adam Low, although admitting several times that he has yet to have any experience of romantic love, spends most of the performance at a blackboard at the back of the stage, scrawling the names of dozens of things he loves, from Lord of the Rings to his mum’s macaroni cheese.

It’s a joyful and hugely life-affirming show, yet it never tips over into sentimentality. Poor Tom Raymond suffers the indignities of multiple rejections throughout the course of the hour, and is then warned that his display of suffering isn’t convincing enough.

Movement and imagery are strong and secure: Nathan Low and Christiana Bissett execute a simple yet eloquent dance expressing their feelings, and broken hearts are cunningly represented by crushed tomatoes. A secure sense of structure and pacing are ensured by directors Tashi Gore and Jess Thorpe.

It’s hard not to be swept along by the joyful commitment and sincerity of the performance, and a concluding round of Madness’ "It Must Be Love", confidently led by Stanley Smith, brings a tear to the eye. There’s a big, generous heart beating inside this truly remarkable show.

- David Kettle


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