Birds (Manipulate Festival/ Traverse Theatre)

I was recently part of the Manipulate Festival ‘Young Critics’ scheme – I know, right. How far can I push this whole ‘young’ thing. I saw two shows, and was mentored by critic and all-round knowledgable person Gareth Vile.

Sita Piaraccini is a wild-haired, wide-eyed, intoxicating creature of innocence who has somehow found herself the sole human survivor in a post-apocalyptic world. She constantly fusses over a mound of earth, scrabbling to bring order in to a disordered landscape. She is desperately hungry; taunted by the rude interjections of her own stomach, she forages for scraps inside tin cans and reluctantly gnaws on a piece of wood. She’s the sort of post-apocalyptic survivor that we would all hope to be, but deep down we know we are not: pragmatic, hopeful and kind.

The performance is supported by Foley artist and musician David Pollock, who creates the sort of organic, wholesome sounds that I haven’t heard since childhood, and that would not be out of place alongside the best of Oliver Postgate. From the gentle pad-pad-padding of bare feet on dry grass, to the feathery flutterings of wings that suggest she is not totally alone in this world – every sound is a fulfilling joy, giving great depth to this piece.

What is so brilliant about Bird is that everything on stage is relatable on a most primitive level. Piaraccini’s performance is nuanced and clever. There are no words uttered – for what good are words when there is no-one to talk to – but we are still acutely aware of her pains and her loneliness, thanks to her ability to express emotion even with the flicker of a finger or the turn of her head. Ultimately it is a simple little tale, but one that shows that Piaraccini really gets what it is to be human.

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