Thursday, 4 February 2016

Birdheart

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

On a table-top size desert landscape, a solitary egg sits in the spotlight as the sound of the tide ebbs and flows around it. By the end of Julian Crouch and Saskia Lane's thirty-five minute epic that formed part of the Manipulate visual theatre festival's Wednesday night programme, all life will have stemmed from it. As the egg bursts open as operated by Crouch and Lane with concentrated diffidence, a brown bag blows in, unfurls itself and puts flesh and bones on an ever morphing creation that slowly finds its uneasy feet. From a stumblebum gangle to an imperious stride, this ever-expanding new-born sheds skins and grows stronger with every wobbly step.

At first glance this all seems a far cry from Crouch's large-scale spectacles as a designer and director with Improbable Theatre on the likes of Shockheaded Peter and the company's collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland on a staging of Neil Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls. Lane, meanwhile, is best known as a musician who has worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce and the Kronos Quartet inbetween co-leading the band, The Lascivious Biddies. In their first collaboration as duo puppeteers, however, the pair have created a work of intricate grace and beauty.

In a show commissioned by the New York-based VisionIntoArt and National Sawdust organisations, and with support from several other producers including the Henson Foundation, at times Birdheart's crumpled protagonist is a lonely Lear left in the wilderness, at others an equally solitary Canute watching the waves. The light shed on what lies within him enters the realms of magical realism before he finally takes flight, completing the evolutionary circle as he goes in beguiling miniature.

The Herald, February 4th 2016

ends


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