Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 29 January 2015
LIttle Bird, 29 Jan, 2015 ***
By Nicki Bloom, Music by Cameron Goodall & Quentin Grant by State Theatre
Company SA Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne Jan 29 to Feb 4, 2015 Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:*** Review also published in Herald Sun online today, Fri 30 Jan 2015, and in print on Sun 1 Feb, 2015. KH
Paul Capsis in Little Bird
Capsis is well known for blurring gender boundaries in his cabaret performances
and continues to do so in Nicki Bloom’s one-man play, Little Bird.
grim fairytale explores the rites of passage of a boy maturing into a man and
searching for his identity in a world that offers him no clear role models or life
frail, birdlike child called Wren is mysteriously born to a childless couple,
but his happy, family life eventually disintegrates when his mother leaves and
his father falls into despair.
departs on a long journey that sees this confused, young man first stumble into
a marriage with a lonely girl in the forest, then escape to the city and into
an equally unsatisfying relationship with Rocky, a brawny, dress-wearing
Alone on stage, Capsis
self-narrates the entire story and plays all characters using his full, spoken,
vocal range that shifts from a grumbling, dark bass – a tone that we rarely
hear in his singing – to high-pitched, childlike tones.
Capsis’s small frame twists and curls in upon itself like an old crow folding
its wings, but he transforms from this gruff, old bird to pert child, then cheerful
youth and finally to decorative, gender-bending man-woman.
growling rock tune Capsis sings as cross-dressing Rocky is the most entertaining
song; “I chop wood but I do it wearing a dress”, he howls, to the delight of
Capsis holds the audience and sells the songs with his inimitable presence and
vocal style, his middle-register when singing lacks some control and clarity.
are multiple problems with the writing, direction and music in this production
and Capsis has to push to make the story and dialogue interesting and engage
Bloom’s narrative lacks
complexity and subtlety, the poetic style of language feels contrived rather
than clever, the dialogue is often melodramatic or earnest and there is an
imbalance between songs and text.
the design and lighting (Geoff Cobham) provide some visual complexity, Geordie
Brookman’s direction is static and unimaginative, often leaving Capsis standing
and delivering large chunks of text without layering or movement.
The music that
underscores much of the story is unobtrusive but many tunes (Cameron Goodall,
Quentin Grant) are predictable or uninspiring with trite lyrics.
Perhaps we are jaded by too many
shows dealing with gender issues, but Wren’s gender bending feels predictable
and not at all transgressive.