Stupid F**king Bird is Lightning Jar Theatre’s debut production. It’s a brilliant work, self-reflective, self-deprecating at times. It’s romantic in places, anarchic in others. It’s a polemic, a mooshing together of a classic text with modern theatrical Play-doh (aka techniques) until it resembles something closer to Adaptation, or, Synecdoche, New York, than a mere revival of Anton Chekhov’s, The Seagull.
The first half is deceptive, characters seeming light. As much as everyone in the audience roared with laughter around me, the cast weren’t clowning. Instead, they were doing the delicate task of setting up one of the most magnificent second acts of theatre. The first half had its fair share of hijinks, but those mostly fell away after the interval, leaving less larks but in their place so many stunning moments.
Had I not sought help from Thesaurus Anonymous, I wouldn’t have hesitated to describe Carla Bonner’s performance of Emma as pulchritudinous. She was wonderful as Emma, wielding her ambition, anger, and pragmatism – as well as no small amount of ornate language – in great fashion. Cait Spiker was terrific in the role of Nina, moving from light to licentious to – by the end – considered and resolute. There was also lovely storytelling from Hannah Greenwood playing Mash. Despite the time jumps throughout the play, Hannah’s character work was compelling and coherent.
Nathan Sapsford did well as Emma’s lover, Trig, as he moves from behaving hedonistic to someone acutely self-aware and vulnerable. Also good was Dylan Watson as Dev. Garnering most the laughs, the strength of Dylan’s performance (as it was for everyone) lay in never playing for them. David Ross Paterson was fantastic as Sorn, from his wry humour earlier on, to a melancholier state near the end.
Bookending the show was Michael Mack as Con. Con manufactures his own misery without taking any responsibility for it. But Con is also a playwright, the playwright, really, and his wider laments were thrown out to the audience in a desperate fervour. Michael was electric by the final moments of the play, present until not being, a committed performance with heft.
Con’s arc, in a way, speaks to the qualities of the play as a whole – emotionally engaging you without really being aware of it until the weight of the end knocks the stuffing out.
Stupid F**king Bird
Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Performance: Friday 10 February 2017 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 26 February 2017
Information and Bookings: www.metanoiatheatre.com
Image: Nathan Sapsford, Carla Bonner, David Ross Paterson, Dylan Watson and Hannah Greenwood feature in Stupid F**king Bird – photo by Sarah Walker Photography