'Birdhouse' – Jammy Voo | Edinburgh 2013
The premise of ‘Birdhouse’, Jammy Voo’s third show, is that some of the minor characters from the classic Hitchcock film ‘The Birds’ – in town for a twitcher’s convention – have been caught up in the bird attack and taken cover in the Coronet Cinema. Where they’ve remained ever since.
This is the starting point for a clowning and physical theatre piece that is driven less by plot than by atmosphere, and by extensive riffing off the film and bird themes. There are nods to the movies with a day-glo coloured cyclorama (no mean feat given Fringe technical limitations) that doubles as a shadow screen, particularly effective in a car scene that’s a charming lo-fi version of green-screen driving movie sequences.
There are spatterings of bird droppings, mysterious appearances of eggs and (literal) birds-nest hairdos. There are some great songs and fine singing. There’s a miniature house with tiny black peg birds flocking menacingly around it.
There’s also some excellent puppetry. Jammy Voo’s shows have all featured puppetry by Yngvild Aspeli, in sequences where she’s menaced by her own glove puppet antagonist. Here there’s a beady-eyed crow that’s after her glasses, and more. It may be slightly familiar but it’s an absolute treat.
The show doesn’t quite all hang together, and it is slightly frustrating that a great narrative set-up isn’t really followed through. But it’s always entertaining and, despite the outward form of absurdity, there is something deeper and darker pulsing away underneath.
An air of menace and paralysing anxiety is there right from the start, when an excess of comically played safety warnings open the show. And it runs through the mordant folk songs and the monologues of contained rage and frustration that punctuate the humour. It has a noir-ish, cold-war feel that is obviously inspired by period films, but ‘Birdhouse’ also subtly nods towards the contemporary fears of media saturation and climate change.
Commissioned by Beaford Arts
With support from Jacksons Lane Theatre
Funded by Arts Council England