CABARET: Little Bird – State Theatre Company of SA – Her Majesty’s – 2.5K

IMG_0552Little Bird is presented as a dark fairy tale for adults. Penned by Nicki Bloom, it is a theatrical staging of one soul’s biography, as the protagonist, Wren (Paul Capsis), is born, grows up, seeks to find his true self in the world and wraps up any loose ends in his life; all the while shedding not-so-metaphorical layers of himself. The problem is, there’s no arc to the narrative and nothing interesting actually happens. There’s no message. You catch glimpses throughout of the feeling that should surround this show for it to work as a piece of art; for it not to matter that it has no point, for it to be beautiful for beauty’s sake, for it to be powerfully emotive and make you feel something – joy, sorrow, pain, love, confusion, wonderment – but it never quite manages to maintain that quality and thus falls short of this.

adelaide-cabaret-festival-760The atmosphere is not helped by the cavernous space of Her Majesty’s stage which seems incongruous with the show. Capsis wanders about it (directed by Geordie Brookman), up and down the centre feature (the front of which is obscured from view for the majority of audience in the Dress Circle), trying to fill the space, but this doesn’t really add anything to the piece. It would do just as well, if not better, being presented without this distraction, to allow Capsis to centre and ground himself and to give the core elements of the production that show some promise – the songs and his voice – a chance to capture the audience.

As it is, Capsis’ performance varies in quality. There are times when his voice soars through the theatre or a particular characterisation drips with delicious cynicism or a hint of mystery; however, they’re not frequent and just as you’re starting to get into the scene, he’s back up stalking and the moment is lost. For the most part he does not seem to have any connection with what he’s singing; there is no powerful emotion behind it and the vocalisation itself seems forced rather than fluid. At times the music seemed to get away from him and his focus was on catching up to it, rather than feeling it or presenting it. Some of the fault in this may also lie in the composition (Cameron Goodall and Quentin Grant); again, there are moments of great beauty followed by long stretches of the mundane.

Little Bird doesn’t seem to know what sort of show it wants to be. Its base is clearly in cabaret but then its focus is complicated by trying to turn it into a big, theatrical experience. Meanwhile the music isn’t polished enough to overcome these obstacles and there is no feeling of intimacy. In an alternative, simpler style of presentation, it may have worked better, but staged as it is, one was left feeling rather underwhelmed.

Kryztoff Rating: 2.5K

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