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The Cagebirds
Published on Tuesday, 09 August 2011

3 stars

Greenside (venue website)
5-13 Aug, 1:35pm-2:20pm
Reviewed by Eve Nicol

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

David Campton's script is a canny choice for this company of young students, in light of the sweep of protest around the globe. The Wild One's unwanted captivity in the self-absorbed Cagebirds' barren aviary gives voice to a rising feeling of disquiet amongst society. The rallying-call of the play speaks to the dormant majority. The play's morality is refreshingly transparent, though it skims the surface of appearing preachy.

The company's characterisation of the individual inmates of the Mistress' cage is splendid; highlights from the finely balanced ensemble include a bug-eyed permanently-floating voter, and a hypochondriac grump. But whilst the performances firmly establish the characters of the individual Cagebirds, the overall design of these twitching, bird-brained creatures is disappointingly lacking.

The painted faces of the cast are so varied that their collective power is sadly weakened. When the Wild One bursts into the cage, she appears no different from the others, despite her wish to ruffle a few feathers. If anything, she is the most groomed of the lot (which makes her demand for a hairpin as a means of escape frustratingly unnecessary, given the number of them holding up her riot grrrl hairdo).  Full face paint is flummoxingly also applied to the Mistress, which somewhat confuses the important delineation between the characters and the established hierarchy.

In spite of these distractions, it's an excellently paced piece of theatre, which packs a lot of questions into its short duration. The cast take control of the random twitterings and overlapping dialogue, but work best when flocking together, the captive "sweeties" becoming menacing birds of prey. The simple space and lighting give plenty room for the movements of the characters to flock and break out.

The Cagebirds is an excellent display of the strength of student theatre where the cast work as a tight ensemble. Only an aesthetic that feels halfway there stops this bird from really taking wing.

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