Bird

Bird is the fourth and final play from the 2013 Bruntwood Prize award, following Yen, Rolling Stone, and So Here We Are.  Written by Katherine Chandler, Bird tells the story of almost-16 year old Ava who is about to leave the care home she entered three years earlier, but can neither leave her friends nor persuade her mother to take her back.  Ava is, as her friend Tash says, sitting in an open birdcage with the prospect of a ten by ten room as freedom.  She can never choose to fly out of the open window.

Ultimately Bird is a moving, claustrophobic and compelling story about how a men can destroy a women’s life at an early age.  Ava can only map her future based on her past.  Her friendship with Tash is beautifully written and initially offers such hope.  Ava’s relationship with her mother is interesting, but there’s not quite enough latent emotion to be completely believable. And whilst the male characters reinforce Ava’s destructive cycle and inability to escape, they are at times cliched and one dimensional.

This is very much a play in two parts.  For the first twenty minutes, as the production takes us into the tightly focused world that the writer creates, the play is directionless.  We see outlines of the people that influence and affect Ava, but the scenes focus more on developing the world rather than the characters.  But, in the end we find ourselves there, in the severely limited world that Ava inhabits, and from then on it’s a different play.  We start to feel for her, and see what each relationship means, and how she is affected by each person.  Once in this place, the writing is confident, the drama works beautifully, and the situations are poignant.  There is a real empathy for what Ava is a facing. The enclosed set starts to feel like a metaphor for Ava’s life.  Situations repeat again and again.  There is great sadness not just for Ava’s situation, but for the fact that she can never, ever, escape the world she inhabits.

It’s beautifully acted, with lead Georgia Henshaw producing a superb performance, supported by a talented cast.  And it’s the perfect set for the Studio, strong lighting, great sound; music is used to great effect to reinforce emotions and situations.  But it takes too long to create the world, and with a running time of just seventy minutes the play needs to develop the themes more fully.

Bird is a Royal Exchange Theatre and Sherman Cymru co-production, and runs in the studio until 25 June.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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