The Gypsybird Speaks

Fri 2nd – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Mona Damian

at 03:33 on 21st Aug 2013

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A rather disingenuous production fails to live up to its promise of being a “surreal, philosophical, woodland satire in the spirit of the Brothers Grimm, for grown-ups”. One cannot claim to leave the show feeling a form of philosophical enlightenment and the promised surreal nature very quickly descended into bizarre and, at times, grotesque mayhem.

Perhaps it is understandable why the production floundered from the get go: the script was in no way intelligible as to where exactly the confusing plot was heading. One cannot doubt that the writing was trying very hard to be as engaging and intellectually stimulating as possible, but unfortunately the final effect was simply an incongruous plot and some incredibly pretentious dialogue. The sheer lack of clarity as to what certain characters, props or plot details (including the eponymous Gypsybird) actually tried to convey, became rather baffling.

The heavy handed inclusions of classical references proved a waste as they did not add anything viable to the play except to further the flowery language, not that the already excessively verbose dialogue required more puffing up. The end result was rather affected and inflated. A spatter of swearing that cut through the otherwise inflated dialogue did not serve as low-key relief but was essentially unnecessary, and unsuccessful in hiding cast members’ inability to create sufficient climatic or emotional speeches.

The subject matter, on the rare occasions where it was made clear what the central story was actually meant to involve, was indeed surreal and grim, but the actors’ performances proved far more so. The separate performances came together to form an amateur production at best. Disengaging and insincere, the cast made it difficult for any audience member to be at all affected by the heavy subject matter.

Sarah McKeageney’s Anne did at least provide some more engaging acting, but this was over shadowed by the lack-lustre appearances of her co-hosts. What made the matter more complicated was an excessively large cast. There certainly were several roles which could easily be cut in order to allow those left on stage a little more space to properly establish and develop a chosen persona. The four white-masked ‘manipulators’ did manage to add some life to the performance. The manner in which they incorporated dance into the work was certainly an interesting concept, though again the final product would need some polishing to raise it above the standard of a school production.

‘The Gypsybird Speaks’ may suggest a highly imaginative and enlightening experience, yet cannot but be described as a decided flop for which the script and the acting are equally to blame.

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Marnie Langeroodi

at 11:01 on 21st Aug 2013

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The play isn’t fluid overall, but rather a play of two halves. The first is a pretentious conversation, laden with cultural references and lofty vocabulary. It tries to claim to mock intellectualism, yet desperately strives for just this. It’s also sickeningly metadramatic. Bellamy (Mike Duffy) directs Anne (Sarah McKeagney) through her on-stage performance and describes himself as the ‘jovial third party’ when he speaks directly to the audience. The actors here are not terrible. The tension between Anne and the Witch (Rosie Wills) is believable.

What I distinguish as the second part - where we see Philena in person - the play’s quality diminishes further. Amelia Redmond plays Philena; her character is annoying and her acting is truly awful. Her portrayal was totally fake and difficult to watch. However, she was better when addressing the audience than when in conversation with lover Artemas (James Turner). Bad acting brought the play down to the level of a school production; it really did feel like one. And not only was the acting amateur but so too was the lighting, sound and make-up. The use of lighting was messy and the sound was too loud, while the powerful music was out of place for the emotional intensity of the play (which was minimal). Make-up was of poor quality, although costume was fairly good. I did like the birds and the manipulators’ formation of a stag.

A lot was undeveloped. Who is the pregnant woman? What’s the relevance of her immigrant status? Why has she been impregnated by a fellow woman… what is this production trying to say through gender bending? To be honest, a lot remains unclear to me. What was an egg doing in a tree? Why couldn’t Basil (Heli Kostadinova) stand aeroplanes? I could go on. I left the production unsure what it had all been about. I was, however, sure that I’d been doused in a good helping of Latin, which, I’m pretty sure was there just for the sake of it.

The play wasn’t interesting or engaging because I hadn’t initially been drawn into the characters’ struggles. Not caring about the characters meant I was apathetic about how the storyline was to pan out and became bored.

A suggestion would be to reduce the number of actors, there were too many for a production of this size; roles could easily have been doubled. This could potentially make the overall play appear neater.

Only a handful of viewers showed up to this 1 hour 45 minute production (relatively lengthy for the Fringe!) I don’t suggest you do.

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