The Birds

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The Birds

Postby Barry » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:34 pm

November 7th 2009
The Gate Theatre, Dublin.

Don't read this if you are likely to see the production as I've given the plot and the coup de theatre away.

Here's a tricky one. For ages I have been hoping to stage The Birds, and it's challenges have kept me awake at night. I approached this first production with set ideas, and with intrepidation, and a certain grumpiness that I had been beaten to it. My heart sort of breathed a sigh of relief when I read that the author Conor McPherson seemed to have messed it up leaving people underwhelmed. Well I have to say though that I thought it was astonishing, and totally different to how I might have approached it, which may be both good and bad. There could be room for one more. i fear I may have been more histrionic and visceral and theatrical. This was not, but oh m it was atmospheric and intelligent.
It hardly referenced Hitchcock at all, but took the mood and plot from the original Du Maurier short story but transposed it Ireland. I wasted not a second in kicking it off wth the curtain revealing both Sinead Cusack and Kieran Hinds looking up a very literal staircase to see what the birds were up to upstairs. These two characters had taken refuge from an attack. The play was good at showing an event, often a surprising event, and then talking about what led up to it. Suddely a young girl walked on stage, and then slowly we learnt how she had got there. A good device. Each act was divided into many scenes, but they flowed into each other, overlapping. A detailed and spatial sound design clearly suggested the birds were everywhere, and the sound of wings is a terrifyingly atmospheric sound. Rather than being about an attack of birds, the play developed into three people, well actually four, forced into rethinking relationships with their absent families, maybe deceased families, and confronting the possibilities in front of them. Tensions were high and supsicions even higher. The acting was subtle and dialogue rarely completed, with looks supplying the missing words. The set was beautifully detailed, an you could almost smell the subsequent decay. The windows were grubbier each time they were revealed. This, like Man, was rotting. Some great scenes, and some pretty profound discussions, as well as moments of giddy absurdity, but all underscored with the sound of birds flapping, and increasing in proximity. The lighting helped the tension and suggested the chaos outside the walls.

With just two of the cast remaining, they decided to leave, as there was nothing left to eat anywhere, though there had been much talk of the millions of eggs upstairs. So like Adam and Eve leaving the garden, they packed up and went, and then in a moment of sheer 'darn I wished I'd thought of that' genius a couple of dozen doves flew out of a secret openign, filling the stage. Curtain. Brilliant and so appropriate. As I aid I might have made it more visceral with the scratching and flapping increasing and an actual door being seen to be flung down asthe birds flew across the stage in a flurry of feathers and loud noises, but what this would have done to the birds themselves I don't know. But to have just a few seconds of real birds, albeit beautiful clean and white ones, fililng the stage at the end was so right. Darn, it was good. Amanda and I were very moved by it, though I think Peter was less impressed. We were sat on the front row, making it perfect for me to be equally absorbed by it and to enjoy the mechanics of the play and production, but maybe being so close does reveal the technique....which I love. But I did think it a magnificent evening and worth flying over from Manchester to see. Coudl I get there again before the end of the run?

I still want to stage it though.
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