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And The Birds Fell from the Sky
Published on Monday, 09 May 2011

4 stars

The Old Market (venue website)
7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29 May, 12:50pm-1:20pm, 1:02pm-1:32pm, 1:15pm-1:45pm, 1:27pm-1:57pm, 1:40pm-2:10pm, 1:52pm-2:22pm, 2:05pm-2:35pm, 2:17pm-2:47pm, 2:30pm-3:00pm, 2:42pm-3:12pm, 3:50pm-4:20pm, 4:02pm-4:32pm, 4:15pm-4:45pm, 4:27pm-4:57pm, 4:40pm-5:10pm, 4:52pm-5:22pm, 5:05pm-5:35pm, 5:17pm-5:47pm, 5:30pm-6:00pm, 5:42pm-6:12pm, 6:50pm-7:20pm, 7:02pm-7:32pm, 7:15pm-7:45pm, 7:27pm-7:57pm, 7:40pm-8:10pm, 7:52pm-8:22pm, 8:05pm-8:35pm, 8:17pm-8:47pm, 8:30pm-9:00pm, 8:42pm-9:12pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

And the Birds Fell From Sky disorientates from the start. Audience members are shooed away from The Old Market entrance, to be directed down the side streets of Brunswick to the venue's back door. Each performance is for two people and the times are staggered, giving me an odd 4.27pm appointment with an eerie waiting room. Stuck in half-dark, watching a broken TV, I was already feeling thoroughly lost when the immersive video-goggles-and-headphones experience finally began.

It's worth seeing this piece solely for the technological innovation; just for the wow factor of watching a show happening on a pair of video glasses. The sense of loneliness and isolation you feel when your senses are hijacked is uncanny, and unlike any other theatrical experience. The mesmerising voice in your ears and the objects you are asked to hold in your hands keep you on edge; the smells, and other sensations that layer on top, generate real anxiety.

The difficulty with this show is the narrative. I am not even sure whether it had a story that I found impossible to follow, or just gave the impression of having a story. Either way, it didn’t quite work. As an avant garde piece of bizarre and disquieting images it succeeded very well, but I missed out on fully enjoying the ride by wondering if I ought to know where it was all going, or be paying closer attention to who was who. Perhaps it's just not possible to tell anything more than the simplest of stories when your audience are so entranced be the way the story is being told - like reading a book on a roller coaster, you can't follow the story if you're constantly looking out for the next big dip.

Those troubles aside, this is a disturbing and innovative show that stays with you for days after you experience it. I particularly liked all the clever, enriching little touches: a phone number you can call afterwards, a keepsake that unfurls itself into a freaky tarot reading and a parish newsletter in the waiting room, full of weird backstory. Talking of which, please do let me know if you figure out that dot-to-dot puzzle.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.