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Stupid Fucking Bird

"sharp, expertly staged"

Audrey review: Everything clicks in this expertly staged and very funny production of Aaron Posner’s rebooted Chekhov.

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Company: New Theatre
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Stupid Fucking Bird

Date: 14 Jul 2018

This propulsive and very funny production is going to be one of my favourite shows of the year. And I can say that even though we’re just over halfway through it.

Aaron Posner’s reboot of Chekhov’s The Seagull is faithful in essence to the original but with its frustration levels jacked sky-high, lots of semi-serious meta-theatrical devices and regular hacking of the fourth wall, it re-energises the familiar dynamics of Chekhov’s tragicomedy and makes it seen very now.

Chekov’s Konstantin is now Conrad (Mansoor Noor), desperate to overthrow the theatre he despises and craving to be taken seriously by his borderline neglectful actress mother Emma Arkadina (Kaitlyn Thor), who has returned to the family’s lakeside patch with her new lover, the so-hot-right-now author Doyle Trigornin (Gil Balfas).

The rest you know: Conrad stages his revolutionary performance piece; Arkadina sabotages the show, and its star Nina (Megan Smart) falls for Trigornin, thus delivering  another kick in the teeth for Conrad.

As the would-be playwright spirals into misery, Mash (Annie Stafford), who has loved Conrad since childhood, calls it quits and submits to the charms of Dev (Lloyd Allison-Young), an advocate for compromise in all things.

Director Warwick Dodrell has assembled an excellent cast and creative team around the play. His attention to technical detail is matched by a tender regard for the characters. As a result, pretty much everything about this production sings.

Cleverly connected to the auditorium with a horizon line of grey paint, designer Jeremy Allen’s workspace-style set and fleet of trolleys is endlessly versatile, conjuring up all manner of spaces in cahoots with Veronique Bennett’s notably creative lighting. Ben Pierpoint and Mary Rapp contribute a bangin’ EDM soundtrack which has the cast dancing like no one is watching.

Jumping on to microphones to communicate their thoughts to the audience and occasionally into a large cupboard, the actors are excellent across the board, led by Noor’s anguished Conrad, who at one point literally crawls the wall.

Allison-Young is endearingly funny as Dev. Stafford drips drop-dead cynicism as the ukulele-playing Mash. Smart shines as the guileless yet ambitious Nina, and Brendan Miles is a delight as the rueful local GP Sorin, especially when he ponders advanced middle age and beyond: “Where was I during my 40s? I mean, I know I was there. I can show you my tax returns. But where was I?”

As it demonstrated with Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, when everything clicks, the New Theatre can produce work at the level of a mainstage company. This sharp, expertly staged love-hate letter to art and the people who live it is another example of this venue at its best.

You shouldn’t miss it.

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