Birdsong reviews are in…
For the opening night of Birdsong, we invited some local student in to review the production, below is an account of their thoughts on the show. Birdsong runs from 8 – 13 June, book your tickets online through the following link: www.courtyard.org.uk/events/birdsong/
The performance was stunning. The acting was gripping, powerful and always left you wanting to know what was next. It was thought provoking from start to finish and gifted us with harrowed minds for the remainder of the evening, thinking back to our existing knowledge of history, and the irony the final scene held.
What took my breath away (besides the incredible acting talent) had to be how slick the stage, make up and set changes were. The way the broken buildings merged into the distressed trenches was beautiful. With the use of barbed wire and damaged fence posts – the most notable of which formed a crooked cross, it all blended together with a subtlety that allowed for movement across the various scenes and settings, to be done with minimal props and furnishings. Combined with the lighting, the audience instantly knew where the characters were, without the use of elaborate full stage changes.
The cast carrying out the additional roll of a back stage crew was fantastic – everyone knew what was placed where and carried this out flawlessly. They knew the set as well as their lines, and that fact enabled the performance to be even richer, and suspend the audience further into the illusion of the play.
Finally I have to mention the amazing use of makeup. Especially with the tunnel diggers, the use of dirt and sweat effects was particularly effective. It helped to create an extreme sense of claustrophobia and heat during the dark tunnel scenes that had me breathing erratically at times alongside the actors.
Overall, the performance was fantastic – I really couldn’t fault it. I was engaged emotionally and kept on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Not for the faint of heart, this is one play that will leave you reeling and thinking long after the curtain falls.
Megan Patten – Student from Hereford College of Arts
At times I found the play a little confusing and disorientating, especially with how sudden it started – it took a few moments to realise what was happening and who the characters were. Despite that though, it felt like an accurate representation of what war might have been like for the men and women who lived during that time; you really felt the desperation and hardship they were living through without it being over the top. It was very intense. I wonder if the sudden chopping changes were a deliberate choice by the director as it certainly helped to illustrate the undoubtedly panicked and disorientating atmosphere.
The acting was of a high standard, and even though several of the secondary characters were played by the same actors, you didn’t really notice – the changes were virtually seamless (including accents!). Likewise the set changes were very smooth and well done, it didn’t take much imagination to understand that this was a bar/a tunnel/a trench/a house/etc.
Rachael Harman – Student from Hereford College of Arts
This theatrical adaptation of Birdsong is a cleverly put together version of the story which has been edited and refined over time to keep audiences captivated from the beginning till the end.
Rather than attempting to follow the original novel in a roughly chronological fashion, this adaptation begins in the trenches and uses flashback sequences to explore the protagonist’s story. While this could easily become confusing for the audience as it all takes place in front of the same backdrop, the two narratives are clearly distinguished by all the usual tricks of the theatrical trade: sound, lighting and most notably Isabelle’s bright red skirt, a glamorous signalling flag to the viewers that we are in Stephen’s past.
Although the introductory sequence was meant to draw the audience into the world of the trenches straight away after critiques of the previous version being too slow in the beginning, I felt it was a little too jarring and abrupt. This is one of very few complaints I have about an otherwise sterling production.
In short, I felt that this was a sophisticated take on one of Britain’s favourite novels, acted beautifully and definitely worth the ticket price for a night at the theatre.
Emily Robinson – Student from Hereford College of Arts
From a young persons perspective it is often hard to relate to historic events; they can seem very distant, and the stories often seem disconnected from the life we have always known and understood. This production was an avenue into the terror, fear and hardship men and women of this time endured during the war. It allowed me to step into their lives, feel their feelings, and bought the past to our own day and age. It was a strange sensation understanding a life my great-grandparents would have known when they were my own age.
My favorite aspect of the play was the music. I do not particularly like musicals and this performance is far from that definition, however there were some musical interludes scattered throughout. The singer had a spine tingling voice that resonated around the theatre, and the atmosphere those short pieces created further reinforced the message being told by the actors. It was as though I understood the play through words and felt it through song. I also really enjoyed how the performer who played the fiddle and sang was part of the on-stage cast; he was never hidden behind the stage, though never one of the characters.
Overall an amazing experience, one so moving and eye-opening.
Samantha McNamara – Student Hereford College of Arts