I’m of two minds when it comes to discussing Birds and Other Things I’m Afraid Of. I know that I liked it, and even more so I know that I admired it. But is it a good production? That’s a bit trickier to answer.
Birds is about a young woman who has taken it upon herself to play detective. Enlisting the aid of her American librarian boyfriend, she embarks on a journey of truth to see whether her father had had an affair or not with a woman who may or may not have been her dead mother’s friend.
So far, so pedestrian. That’s my biggest gripe with it; the story is mundane at best. The plot is well-trodden territory, and it’s hard to muster any enthusiasm for another angst-ridden teen out to discover the truth about their parents.
But then there are the details.
First, there’s writer and actor Lynda Radley. Her plot may not be that great, but her dialogue crackles with authenticity and intelligence. And as a performer, Radley is completely believable, easily eliciting smiles, laughs and understood nods from her actions. She makes acting within centimetres of the audience look easy, and that alone is commendable. It’s a performance that’s much more accomplished than at first appearance.
Then there’s Sandy Thomson’s work. As a director, Thomson keeps everything tight, finding clever ways of keeping the action going while allowing for nice flourishes. But it is Thomson’s work as a designer that I found myself most smitten. The shed, which the majority of the production takes place in, is an artistic marvel, filled with clever props, lighting effects and sound schemes. Thomson and his artistic team should be applauded for creating a set that is in itself an excellent art installation. Of course, a flaw is that I spent a lot of time looking at my surroundings, sometimes choosing to let my eyes wander instead of watching Radley (but I was always listening—I promise).
Which comes back to my opening statement. Birds and other Things I’m Afraid Of certainly suffers from ‘style over substance’ mentality. It takes an almost clichéd story but tells it with such pomp and creativity that it almost feels fresh. Almost. Still, with its highly creative design and heartfelt one-woman performance, it is difficult to be too critical. I really did enjoy it; I just had higher expectations of its kernel of a script.
Filed under: Glasgow-based theatre productions |