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SCENE IT: THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS is the theatre hug we all need

Barbara Loots


THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS, currently onstage at the Baxter Theatre, is an adventurous and magical excursion into the rehabilitation of broken and discarded things and people. It is a heart-shatteringly beautiful glimpse into reality through the eyes of a child who refuses to fall into the trap of cynicism that comes with the realisation of the existence cruelty and sadness in the world. It is a fantastic glimmer of hope.

In THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS, the bittersweet reality of life is explored through the unfiltered mind of a child, wise beyond his years. It touches on ancient traditions, on mythology and the power of dreams. At its centre, is the Japanese practice of Kintsugi, also known as kintsukuroi, which sees broken things (usually pottery) put back together with gold, silver or platinum to ultimately reveal it as even more beautiful (and arguably stronger) because of its scars. It is a practice that celebrates the continued worth of something, regardless of its past.

On the face of it, THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS deals with the themes of bullying, loss, and loneliness. But in truth it goes so much deeper.

So often we go around saying "if only the world could be a little kinder". There's so much cruelty on display locally and abroad, that despair may threaten to tumble us all into the 'swamp of sadness'.

Depending on your age, that description may trigger memories of The Neverending Story for you. And this play kind of reminded me of a boy who could save a world from destruction by simply believing he could. What THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS did for me is remind me of the magic and power of one child, one person believing in the magic of it all, the magic of existing and seeing worth where others may be too jaded to see it.

'Believe', 'dream', 'inspire'... these words ring throughout the show like a golden thread reminiscent of the Kintsugi gold used for repair. In exploring the power of these words through the lens of the obvious themes you come to realise that THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS looks to heal through hope. It is like the Willy Wonka of theatre: It somehow just knows exactly what 'treat' you both want and need when you take your theatre seat.

This production is gloriously complex in it's children's theatre simplicity. The story (Michael Taylor-Broderick), performance (Cara Roberts), and elaborate set (Bryan Hiles) filled with thingamabobs and gadgets all come together seamlessly to create something truly special. The set is as much a character as the child at the centre of the story. Roberts has found a way to transform into the innocent child envisioned by Taylor-Broderick with an utterly believable performance. She does so in an effortless way that invites you to suspend reality and see her as the child character only.

Although the play runs at a mere 50 minutes, it is packed to the brim with beautiful and moving moments without ever feeling rushed.

The KING OF BROKEN THINGS is such a multi-layered theatre gem, it plays to the young and the young at heart. I was unashamedly laughing and crying at the same time throughout.

It is a heart-shatteringly beautiful play that softly speaks to the absence of a parent and the need to still cling to their love and the hope their memory brings, as they still guide the way you see and experience life.

Life and how we live it, is a choice. We are all broken in some way, it's how we choose to put ourselves and others back together with the magic of kindness... and sometimes just a bit of patience too. Every thing and person has worth, all you have to do is believe.

In a world of instant gratification, where we so easily discard things and people, THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS is a mirror for us all. I dare you to look at a broken umbrella the same way again after watching this play.

I encourage everyone to go and experience the great theatrical hug that is THE KING OF BROKEN THINGS. You can see it at the Baxter Theatre until 18 May 2024, with tickets available for booking online through Webtickets. No under 10s and no late entry.


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