And the Birds Did Sing

Christine Devaney
Curious Seed
Tron Theatre

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Christine Devaney Credit: Maria Falconer

There is the long-accepted belief that by making something local, you make it global; by describing and performing something known to those around you, they are better able to grasp the world at large.

What of a singular moment?

What of a time, a second, a memory?

Here, Christine Devaney invites us to listen and watch as she describes a woman, who she labelled Birdie, when she was a little girl, who looked after the birds. Just what she saw and how that affected her are the singular focus of this interpretative and meditative dance piece which does enthral and entices thinking beyond our experience.

After all, we were not there, and we do not definitively know if Birdie existed at all.

With an opening movement which leads to Devaney describing how she noticed Birdie; with vivid and strong descriptions of the place she witnessed her from—it places at the heart one thought—love. It’s an all-encompassing emotion, not necessarily defined by desire but of understanding and acceptance. At no point do we meet or get introduced to Birdie as anything more than a haunting presence that scaffolds a future, would ruin the process. She is there, but within knowledge, not sight.

As a movement piece, Devaney is highly dexterous, which underpins our comprehension of her movement—it is hard to take your eyes away from her. As for the words, they do the job, but at times feel descriptive more than powerful. It is perhaps the movement which has the more communicative power, whilst the explanation is the underlying exposition. I wanted more of the effect by the words spoken as Devaney spoke with such bright authority. I wanted more of the childlike naming of places that spoke of honesty and a lack of euphemism: calling it what it was.

And the Birds Did Sing manages to exemplify theatrical practice. The set design has a single square of light within a hanging construction hinting at a place where the scattered bricks and crumpled paper below seemed to suggest an ill-considered playground—a place before health and safety would have been an issue. It speaks of a bygone age that enforces and reinforces the ideal of memory being played out. As Devaney stood on one, I struggle to remember the last time I stood on a brick, on a building site, and then simply toppled off it—I remember that I was young, but can still feel the effects if I try hard enough to remember.

It is the interplay between each of the creative aspects which have struck a chord—the soundscape, the movement, the words and the visual impact of a memory held, and shared. With Devaney choreographing, the music of Luke Sutherland and artist Yvonne Buskie delivering that wonderful set, add in the lighting, poised and poignant, from Emma Jones and I was transposed from my seat elsewhere. I landed in Kincaidston, the 1970s, a building site where my pal and my cousins were to live, but for the visits I made, it was a concrete fascination, a building site filled with character and characters.

Along the way, and through its tour, And the Birds Did Sing has a second half with artists “staying on” for a chat or of the Cumbernauld Youth Theatre performing a companion piece. And so its effect goes way beyond its own performance.

Reviewer: Donald C Stewart

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