The story ideas for The Magic Heart and The Wishing Ring grew from discussions between No Strings’ artistic director Kathy Mullen and Dr John Woodall, a renown psychiatrist and founder of The Unity Project, a resilience-learning system conceived through working with children and young people in numerous disaster- and war-affected parts of the world.
As they talked, he recalled something that had left a lasting impression when working with children in Bosnia during the Balkan crisis of the 1990s, a slight-of-hand trick, where he would take a ring and make it disappear, then reappear from behind one of the children’s ears.
For this to happen, they first had to blow. In doing so, he got them all to believe they had the power to make it appear and disappear.
He realised that the simple trick was somehow meaningful. By taking part, the children were able to experience a very small sense of power, and make just a tiny change happen.
The next step was for them to relate the trick to something they could actually do in their own lives, again, however small, and rediscover a sense of motivation and hope.
“Many of these children had been through very traumatic experiences,” Kathy explains. “They were feeling powerless and hopeless about their lives, and were frozen by these feelings, unable to imagine making any changes in their lives.
“It gave us an idea of somewhere to go with our story. John’s ring game became the central feature of The Wishing Ring.
“While the ring, and the little plastic heart in The Magic Heart seem to be magic, what is really happening is that the protagonist finds a latent magical power inside themselves, and which has been created through helping others. They find they can if they do something, even something small, they get a sense of power and they are not so helpless. Especially if they can join with others. And it’s a good feeling. It’s about finding power.”