Brighton Fringe 2012
A dark fairytale from The Hurly Burly’s resident theatre company with live music and "mechanical magic from Circus Kinetica"
Birdy is original, funny and touching – a delightful entertainment!
This is a simple story but told with immense energy, originality and imagination, inviting laughter and compassion. It is musical theatre, story-telling, site-specific theatre and mime all rolled into one enjoyable whole, beautifully cast and performed by five players who tell the simple story of finding, loss and a warm happy ending with enormous skill. Birdy and her suitor are the main characters, but the three supporting actor musicians are equally important, playing aspects of the heroine’s personality ,or as chorus and as other parts of whom the most surprising were the smiling doctor and sinister tap dancing assistants who at her lowest point, imprison Birdy.
The production, having engaged us with the Spanish ringmaster’s welcoming chats to the audience, brings the whole cast and front of house crew into the limelight to dance and sing. When the ringmaster commences the story of Birdy, he becomes various other amusing characters but most important of all, Birdy’s lover. The story continues with their hilarious and vigourous courtship, then the wedding which goes from sentiment to fun as the bridal dress is made to reveal first a pregnancy then a baby and the veil is turned over to become an apron and Birdy becomes literally wound up with domestic items. The mood darkens with troubles growing between the young couple, and Birdy’s feathers and her attendant qualities disappear, until there is “a moment when her joy died”.
Having lost everything she descends into illness, and then her previous “qualities” are transformed into her tormentors and she is bound and caged This is, however, a fairy story, and she eventually finds her voice, is helped out of the cage to a happy ending. We are comforted, but perhaps as adults, not entirely convinced with this, but it is a family show and managed to avoid too much pain, although the breakdown is convincingly played, if perhaps a little long. This was the one time in the show when the cold of the tent became noticeable. No-one could have felt cold during the early l chase-and-be-caught scenes which used the stage, the bar and the adjacent company bus windows for the most inventive and funny portrayal of love-making onstage, without being offensive, that I have seen, though one or two parents in the audience might have to face a few questions about it afterwards!
Birdy was mimed with delicacy, clarity and charm by Carla Espinoza, and Oliver Harrison as the Ringmaster/lover held the whole thing together with panache. The three actor musicians who also represented Birdy’s qualities were Katie Grace Cooper as her namesake Grace, only once being given the opportunity to show her drumming skills, George Williams, smooth and elegant as Lyric, leading the music with his pleasant voice and guitar playing, and Phillipa Hogg whose smile would light up any room, and sensitively echoed the emotions of the heroine without ever overplaying, a brilliant piece of casting as Joy, who also played the violin. The harmonies of the singers made these a most talented trio, and the whole team co-ordinated sympathetically.
The director Mella Faye staged the performance with balance, care and inventiveness and fitted it all into the asymmetrical marquee and converted bus that is the Hurly Burly brilliantly. The lighting guys had not quite sorted all the cover spots, but the set and costumes were beautifully fitting. If you add the friendly welcoming staff, the inexpensive but delicious cakes and drinks available or hot lasagne from the inside bar, you cannot help but have a wonderful Fringe evening there, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit.