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And No Birds Sing
Published on Monday, 28 May 2012

3 stars

Booth Museum of Natural History (venue website)
17-20 May, 7:00pm-7:40pm, 8:15pm-8:55pm, 9:30pm-10:10pm
Reviewed by Lynne Morris

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 World Premiere.

And No Birds Sing was among my most anticipated shows of the festival. Performed within the atmospheric Booth Museum of Natural History, the publicity captured the mood of the type of theatre I enjoy – strange, sensory and potentially a little grotesque. Visuals and soundscapes were promised, along with the obvious taxidermy and curiosities.

Arriving at the Museum ten minutes before the start of the performance, I found a locked door and an abandoned-looking building offering no suggestion that the final show of the night was about to begin. The small group gathered outside gave the secret away, but an official gesture would have been nice. Welcomed into the building shortly thereafter, the audience of approximately 20 passed an awkward few minutes crammed into a space between the front door and an internal door with no indication of what was next.

But the opening sequence, when it started, offered promise, as a serious-looking gentleman sat behind a desk beautifully dressed with intriguing props and talked directly to the gathered audience. In a sombre tone he discussed taxidermy and the museum collection. The calmly controlled manner with which he panned the room for eye contact implied that things might get interactive and uncomfortable – a possibility I relished. The storytelling moved between this museum guide, a seemingly abstract video piece, and four elegant ladies; it encompassed movement, singing and wandering monologues, yet it never truly engaged the audience.

A definite highlight of the piece was the atmospheric sound design. The use of carefully crafted audio within an ordinarily silent environment elevated the mood, taking us somewhere beyond the already intoxicating setting. The experience of being virtually alone in this museum after dark, accompanied by this intriguing soundscape, offers sufficient reason to guardedly recommend the show.

These two factors in isolation guided my personal imaginary journey, in which the creatures come to life and tell their own tale. But telling a tale is something which the performance itself sadly did not manage; the story was in desperate need of cohesion, and a sense of purpose. It seemed that there was too much reliance on the magic of the space, leaving And No Birds Sing feeling like a selection of disparate elements, as opposed to a complete and finished piece.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.