Review | BIRD (Secret House)

Updated: Nov 2, 2019

With powerful performances, touching sentimentality and a meticulously crafted roundabout, this production by Secret House is a sombre, poignant play that gives a voice to two vulnerable, disadvantaged adolescent girls.

Staged at the classic Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo, Bird is a characteristically Welsh play that primarily chronicles the life of 15-year-old Ava as she struggles to find safety and sanctuary in a perpetually marginalising world. We open to Ava and her friend Tash standing atop a cliff, watching the flocking birds and pondering their own futures. Ava and her 13-year-old friend Tash formed a close bond through their time spent sharing a care home but Ava is a month off turning sixteen and is facing the precarious transition into adulthood. Faced with a mother who won’t have her back, an enigmatic taxi driver who plies her with alcohol and an endearing albeit immature teen who follows her around, Ava is perilously navigating the outside world to find the comfort and protection she desperately craves.

Laura Wilson gives an impassioned, vulnerable performance as Ava that succeeds in making us feel her desperation and yearning for a certain freedom. Bella Ridgeway evokes a tender portrayal of the ingenue Tash and both girls are simply mesmerising during their rendition of the classic Welsh children’s song, “Tidy Little House”.

When an actor can play a character, who has done something unquestionably abhorrent and they are still able to make you empathize with them, you know you are in the presence of a master. Sarah Easterman plays such a character in Claire, Ava’s mother. An astonishingly nuanced performance that shows us the ambivalence of a mother desperately trying to protect herself and her contented life and as result, her need to neglect a daughter.

In keeping with the traditions of the play, all cast members took on the challenge of speaking with the awfully complex Welsh accent. Dialect coach Amanda Stephens Lee has done a superb job with these actors as their accents were almost flawless – particularly Laura Wilson.

Director (as well as Production Designer - with James Smithers - and Sound Designer) Jane Angharad’s native passion shines through in this production. The production design is aesthetically captivating and works in economical tandem with the staging of the action. The sound and music elements have been used expertly to boost moments of poignancy and the overall result is complete immersion in the world of the play. Jane Angharad has taken Katherine Chandler’s fiercely raw but equally delicate text and has done a generous justice to its vigour and sentimentality.

My Reaction

During the production, I truly felt that I had been transported somewhere else. The combination of the production and performance elements worked magically to cultivate an immersive environment - I felt serene and sentimental which left me emotionally open enough to sympathize with the characters in front of me. What I think I enjoyed the most was the enduring cultural aspect of the production - its language, settings and characters that engrossed me in the intrinsic Welsh traditionality of the play.

Venue Old Fitz Theatre (Woolloomooloo), 18th Oct to 2nd Nov 2019

Director Jane Angharad

Playwright Katherine Chandler

Cover Image and Production Shots by Clare Hawley

DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.

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