Nesting within the Leicester Square Theatre, The Birds was a short, sharp pecking performance for 60 minutes. Flocking into The Lounge, a small cast, set and audience created the desired post-apocalyptic hideaway. With no welcoming clues, the set was minimal: two squeaked out chairs, table with a red cloth and a tatty blanket screwed over the floor (I could already hear my mother’s nagging!) Puzzlement with a dose of curiosity, my eyes fluttered the love for the intimate space and dangling miniature light bulbs.
Perched on my seat for a spot of people watching, a friendly couple came to roost next to me with wine glasses in hand. Loving the opportunity of a natter, I explained this was my first visit to the venue whilst they declared their loyalty to the Leicester Square Theatre and literally gave me a run for my money blog. Establishing a positive vibe amongst my fellow audience members, the lights dimmed and The Birds hatched.
This atmospheric post apocalyptic chiller is set in a world where society has collapsed and the birds, for reasons unknown, attack humans at every given opportunity. Three strangers with dark pasts and many secrets, find themselves thrown together trying to survive this harsh new world… Hiding in a boarded up house where danger comes from the skies above and also from within.
The Birds, Leicester Square Theatre, 2015
Cue the sudden darkness and radio broadcast, I struggled to make sense on what was happening. Due to my previous Daphne du Maurier encounter with Rebecca, I already had an inkling of her chilling thriller. However, the narrative soon became slightly clearer as the characters flocked into a panic room. Then came the birds. Keeping an open mind, the constant sound of squawking actually helped the imagination of the possessed birds domination. Okay the sound effect was slightly overpowering at times, but it certainly murdered the cuteness of Tweety. Creating a claustrophobic setting, there were some successful mind flips of both cast and audience being trapped within a birdcage.
The companionship between the trio, Nat, Diane and Julia, constantly evolved within a challenging one hour time period. Scenes faded into darkness to represent the time lapse and the characters ruffled each other’s tail feathers. Conor McPherson’s script trickled human emotion, especially the hazy courting ritual between Nat (Glenn McCrory) and Diane (Emma Taylor). Entering Julia (Alice Marshall) into the mix, the play became like a Big Brother episode, including a love triangle, surprise pregnancy and debates on religion and survival. With a black curtain providing little respite for the cast, the characters were never free from audience view.
I feel totally wrong for writing this, but I wanted Julia’s death scene to be more…gruesome. The scene certainly made me sit up and treat Diane with unexpected caution as she simply listened to Julia’s door thumping. With a locked door, Julia became breadcrumbs for the birds. I guess I was looking for exaggerated screams, eyeballing plucking, moments of b****ing, pleads for help or Nat appearing in a Superman costume…it had the potential to The Birds‘ OMG scene.
Thanks to a quick Google search “Who is Glenn McCrory” (don’t judge me – sport is not my forte), I was also surprised to see a former boxing champion taking on a leading role as Nat. Switching the boxing ring for the stage, I guess there is one similarity: the performance. McCrory was very much a gentle giant (reminded me of Lenny from Of Mice and Men at times) and it was interesting to witness few strokes of vulnerability and softness to his character.
Regarding some of the reviews on this play, some critics have acted like vultures and ripped the positives from the piece. I know we exist within an incredibly tough industry where freedom of expression is paramount and celebrated. No matter how polite or cheesy you think I am, I am incredibly honoured to see creativity from another mind. I thought The Birds was an interesting seed for evening thought and has potential to gain its wings. It has also caused me to view these birds in a totally different light…especially when this Goshawk (what we believe to be) murdering a pigeon in my garden!!!