Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A dazzling avian performance

At the Sherman

Bird , Sherman Theatre , May 19, 2016
Production: Bird

Company: Sherman Cymru/Royal Exchange Manchester

Venue: Sherman Theatre

Date: 18 May

This bird, Ava flits about and dazzles. A compelling and hugely engaging performance from Georgia Henshaw. As we take our seats we hear seagulls flying overhead and the sound of the sea rolling towards the shore. “Ava stands at the top of the cliff, the end of the earth, breathing it in, arms outstretched like wings.” All very simply established by a basic set of a dirty white wall with two ladders. We meet her friend, the thirteen-year-old Tash. Another spot-on performance by Rosie Sheehy. We quickly become aware of a bond between them. They both live in a nearby Children’s Home. Ava is coming up to her sixteenth birthday and will have to leave the home. She wants to return to her mother. To be somewhere, safe.

Two chairs are placed centre stage and she’s in a café talking with her mother, Claire. Siwan Morris brings her to life in an extraordinary and disturbingly realistic manner. There is a very empty conversation between them. With her telling, poetic dialogue writer Katherine Chandler conveys to us the emptiness that is in all the characters in the narrative.

Claire had Ava when she was sixteen, she struggles with a small touch of guilt but she doesn’t want to take Ava back. Ava was moved out after abuse from her father. As Ava realises that things are not going to work out for her, her innocence falls away; we see a raw scarred but switched on, feisty little bird. Her mother goes.

Ava is not alone for long Tash, her maybe real friend is back on the beach. The two girls banter and giggle and watch the birds swooping overhead. Tash has stories, memories to tell us. Her dad taught her to swim in the Irish Sea. He taught her to dance and about the stars. She tells Ava about a caged bird that was let out to fly around the room. One of a number of gentle bird analogies Chandler slips in as the journey progresses. She has a head full of romances but she fails to really connect with anyone not even Ava. There is a sad, inexplicable loneliness inside her.

Teenage Dan, another park regular, slips into the scene. He lives at home, his father takes him fishing. He’s troubled by his burgeoning sexuality. He makes a move on Ava, she’s not having any but eventually she gives him what he wants. The desperation begins to penetrate into us. Connor Allen is very touching in his almost perfect realization of his character. We do care about him, indeed it is this frustrated care of the three young people that grabs us.

Lee, the final member of this empty, lonely quartet brings Ava beer and vodka. A taxi driver, an enigmatic figure, difficult to tie down. Difficult to understand exactly what and why his relationship with Ava is about. We know he was imprisoned for six years. He might find Ava a home in some old derelict houses. Guy Rhys, with his quiet powerful performance, gives him a touch of seedy nonchalance that makes him difficult to like.

The three characters flit in and out of Ava’s life like verses of a poem. Chandler has set herself a real challenge in giving us this jarring observation of people with nowhere to go and who we know will go nowhere. It is our delight in each of these strong individual performances and the way in which they establish, so well, their baffling relationships that makes a this such a rewarding piece of theatre.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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