Dublin Fringe Festival 2017: Birdy
A young girl sets off through a darkened forest with a ragtag group of inhuman friends to find a saviour with magical powers to help save them all. Yet, once found, the saviour refuses to help the girl and her desperate friends. Seems they already have all they need to save the day themselves. Sound familiar? “Birdy” might want to sell you a story about a girl and a band and a land where music is banned, but that’s not all it's selling. What it’s also selling is an obvious, and often hilarious, recycling of the fairy tale genre in a production that sits uneasily between a less than stellar kids show and an almost brilliant pastiche and parody of the fairytale for an older, less innocent audience.
A mish-mash of Disney meets The Wizard of Oz, in “Birdy” the eponymous Birdy sets out, with some animal friends, to start a band and recruit a diva in direct contravention to the unseen President Liz’s orders. Liz only wants her own voice heard and anyone caught playing music will be horribly punished. Created by Jane Madden and Ross Gaynor, and directed by Davey Kelleher, “Birdy” recycles far more than it originates, and obviously so. Even several of the jokes have been recycled, from airhead musicians who can actually play, singing birds you can talk to, to ‘I want to have you for dinner,’ said the fox to the chicken. Garishly colourful, and with bundles of energy, “Birdy” might not be as imaginative as it might have been, but it has some excellent performances that more than compensate. Ciara Ivie delights as Birdy, the little girl who can, rallying all to the call. Finbarr Doyle negotiates both the villain Sack and the Techno Turtle with great finesse, and a smattering of some excellent Tom Waits styled vocals. The hilarious James Murphy as an airhead boyfriend and a reluctant chicken is also a joy. As is Roseanna Purcell as Jazz Fox and Diva, showcasing some phenomenal talent.
At times, “Birdy” doesn't negotiate the space between entertaining for children and for adults as well as it might, to the latter's benefit. Birds exploding when shot, or mouths being physically sewn shut, might sit less well with some parents of six-years-old-or-over children, even if adults will find themselves laughing out loud. But it’s all good, harmless fun, dealing in Tom and Jerry level slapstick, making “Birdy” all the better for it. If “Birdy” never really takes you anywhere new, or truly fantastical or childlike, it reimagines stories we all know in a playful way that’s solid good fun for children of all ages, especially those childlike at heart with an few extra years on them.
“Birdy” by Eccles Theatre Group, runs at The Peacock Stage of The Abbey Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2017 from September 21st to 23rd