St Michael's Players
theSpace @ Symposium Hall
The idea of a claustrophobic thriller set in a time when nature had become a dangerous threat to humans seemed to the St Michaels Players in tune with the increasing reports of fires, droughts, hurricanes and other symptoms of climate catastrophe. Then came COVID, isolating us in our homes. Thus did Conor McPherson’s The Birds derived from a Daphne du Maurier short story seem even more resonant with the times.
Three people who don’t know each other take refuge from killer birds in a lonely house some way from the city. Nat (Neil Dickins), who suffers from headaches, and Diane (Arabella Harcourt-Cooze) arrive first. They are barely sorting out some kind of relationship when a younger woman, Julia (Georgina Parren), arrives quoting the Bible, which may bug Diana but doesn’t stop Nat from taking a sexual interest in her.
However, the birds become as irrelevant as an old-style storm that would conventionally isolate people together who would otherwise have been unlikely to ever meet. It's simply a device to keep them holed up in a dramatic situation. Sure enough, the three become mutually paranoid and we the audience are left wondering if this will lead to murder.
And in case that scenario isn’t enough to keep us on the edge of our seats, a weird neighbour (David Burles) wearing a waste-paper bin on his head pops in when Diane is alone to spook her a bit before suggesting they get romantic. I bet he’s a hit on dates.
It is confidently delivered by a fine cast, but, with a weak plot that practically shouts out what you can expect and little dramatic tension, it is unlikely to encourage anyone to care what happens to its characters. No wonder the birds are getting irritable with the play.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna