BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2014: LITTLE BIRD Is a Showcase for the Immense Talent of Paul Capsis
Reviewed Wednesday 11th June 2014
Little Bird is a production by the State Theatre Company of South Australia in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre, and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. It was commissioned by the company especially as a platform for Paul Capsis, and what a magnificent performance he gives.
Geoff Cobham designed both the striking set and the intricate lighting, and so they the two elements are far more integrated and cohesive than the norm because of this. Visually, this is a stunning production from the white cube of the cottage where a young boy named Wren is born and grows up, to the forest and another cottage, and on to the city. Cobham is a master in the use of colour and geometric shapes, as well as light and shade.
Composers, Cameron Goodall and Quentin Grant, the latter also acting as Musical Director, have written some
wonderful background music, and sensational songs that allow Capsis to show his vocal range and dynamic range, as well as his ability to infuse the lyrics with power and passion. Grant's small group of musicians, Belinda Gehlert, violin, Harley Gray, bass, Jonathan Sickerdick, percussion, and Dylan Woolcock, guitar, do a superb job of creating both the atmospheric moods throughout the work and interpreting the songs.
Director, Geordie Brookman, Artistic Director of the company, has worked well with Paul Capsis in bring a multitude of characters, all of them distinct and rather quirky, into vivid focus.
Wren is born and grows up but, returning from school one day his mother is gone and his father seems to have lost all interest in life, sitting in his rocking chair looking at the ashes where a fire should be. Years later, Wren runs away, racing blindly into the woods until he finds a cottage, where a girl takes him in and cares for him. The girl wants them to marry, and he goes along with it, uncertainly.
Years later, he runs away again, ending up in the city where he collapses on the doorstep of an ex-woodcutter called Rocky, who now wears dresses but, for some inexplicable reason, still carries an axe. I half expected that infamous Lumberjack song. Suddenly, Wren's story is completely forgotten and we go off on a tangent and get Rocky's life story. Where that came from, and why, was not the only point at which Nicki Bloom's sparse script broke down, but it was probably the most noticeable.
The best part of this second tale was Rocky's song of proving that he was a better axe man than the rest of his family, even in a dress. If we had to go there, why did the statement that he was a seventh son go nowhere? I thought that this was going to lead somewhere interesting and surreal, with the whole seventh son of a seventh son myth, but no, a missed opportunity to really let Capsis loose.
Why Rocky dresses Wren as a woman is not quite clear, nor is where he ends up next when, years later, he runs away again, and why, when he touches a mirror, nothing really exciting happened. Thoughts of Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass, one of the two way communicating mirrors that Sirius Black gave to Harry, or the mirror of Erised in the Harry Potter tales, or any one of the many myths involving mirrors all suggested great things about to happen and, nothing. And so it continued.
It is the set, lighting, music, direction, Ailsa Paterson's costuming and, of course, the absolutely phenomenal performance of Paul Capsis that holds everything together, in spite of the weaknesses in the script. Go to see it for all of this and, if the script sometimes leaves you confused or uncertain of what is going on, just don't worry about it and, focus on the production and the man who is front and centre, who really does deserve to be called the 'star'.