★★★★ Unsettling introspection
Bedlam Theatre: Tue 27 – Sat 31 Oct 2015
Review by Susan Lowes
Edinburgh University Theatre Company find a birds eye view straight into the heart of captivity in Cagebirds: a quirky, thoughtful little play that positively flies by, or not as the case may be.
David Campton’s 1971 script is very cleverly directed by EUTC regular, Marina Johnson. Clearly allegorical, a number of layers and interpretations are waiting to be picked apart.
At first glance the play opens on six prisoners, caught within a cage. They’re birds, caught within the birdcage, but they’re also women caught within the preoccupations of their own lives. They live within their own worlds and yet coexist within the same ecosystem.
The characters are perfectly balanced and have had time to choreograph their lives around each other. From the absurdly delicious reminiscences of The Great Guzzler (Agnes Kenig), and the vain, vapid dreamlike interjections of The Mirror-Eyed Gazer (Louisa Doyle) to the hypochondriacal rantings of The Medicated Gloom (Poppy McAlister) they embody aspects of people you’d see in any modern environment.
The actors’ portrayal of the Cagebirds highlights the self-absorbed preoccupations of people in the modern world. Do people ever really listen to those around them or are they too consumed by their own thoughts, worries and motivations?
The Cagebirds are watched over by a disembodied voice, who looks after them, protects them – the birds’ owner, or indeed a metaphor for the social system or reality in which the women live.
However, as the production unfolds, their careful ecosystem is cast into turmoil with the introduction of The Wild One, played by Sandra Hoegl. As the name suggests, she’s an outsider – she knows what it’s like to be free, to do as she pleases, to soar among the clouds.
The Cagebirds try their hardest to ignore The Wild One, but her vitality shines through as Hoegl flits between frustration, desperation and compassion while trying to break the others from their reveries and convince them to escape their shackles.
Interestingly each of the actors somehow manage to convincingly portray both birds and women. Jennifer Jones though deserves particular mention for her portrayal of The Constant Twittering – the newest and most nervous of the birds, who seems to be the easiest target for The Wild One.
However, the ultimate result of the unwanted intrusion is an insight into the darker side of human nature and what happens when a group’s existence is threatened. What is it after all that holds the Cagebirds in their physical and mental prisons? Is it fear, ignorance, brainwashing or is it simply that they like life that way? If free will exists, that also means they can choose the prison too.
This is a very well conceived and well delivered bite sized production, that is as unsettling as it is thoughtful.
Running time 1 hour
Bedlam Theatre, 11 Bristo Place,, EH1 1EZ
Tuesday 27 – Saturday 31 October 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm
Details and tickets from: https://www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk/shows/cagebirds-2015