40 Feathered Winks
The Paper Birds
Seven Arts Centre, Leeds, and touring
Inspired by an article reporting that we spend a third of our entire lives in bed, The Paper Birds explore living, loving, leaving and whole lot more of human life in bed.
From the first multi-limbed creature that emerges from the white bed at that most grating of sounds, the alarm clock, the cast of five tumble, fight, dance and fall their way in and around the stage. This is absorbing physical theatre, and many abstract scenes weave their way from one to the next, such as the hospitalised victim who finds herself in a Spanish dream after being read to by her sister from a Spanish dictionary as she lies comatose in bed.
Particularly enjoyable are the love-making couple who don't miss a line from their respective reads as they turn the pages of their books whilst mechanically finding themselves in different copulating positions. Disappointingly, due to the lack of programme, individual actors can't be named but the sequences with the young woman suffering from postnatal depression were especially captivating, including the physical piece performed around her by the rest of the company.
40 Feathered Winks is performed on three white beds, with three white screens behind them. Designer Alison Staples adds a white valance sheet to the bottom of the beds which provides the actors with a lovely exit and entrance space from which they alternatively burst forth or dive under. This is all performed with sparse dialogue but accompanied by Shane Durrant's timely compositions.
The performance runs at just under an hour and is a thoroughly entertaining piece; however it doesn't quite satisfy in providing a comprehensive point. The Paper Birds have great fun and lovely pathos in exploring their short scenes but somehow they don't quite go far enough. This production seems to have been originally devised for the Edinburgh Fringe and undoubtedly its format works well there. But standing alone as a single production, it needs to be developed further and pushed to find some really exceptional physical sequences. The couple's final 'scrapping' fight was a little tame and when the production starts with such a memorable image of the emerging many limbs from one bed we start by expecting this to lead on to something more impressive.
However there is great potential in all they do and The Paper Birds will be an exciting company to follow as they develop and extend themselves. Enjoyable and fresh to watch, they have a stimulating future ahead of them.
Touring to Winchester, Redbridge, Bradford, Leeds (John Sowerby Community Theatre), Salisbury, Bath and the Prague Fringe
Reviewer: Cecily Boys