The sounds of beating wings, caws and merciless claws were barely heard at the Blood, Love and Rhetoric’s production of Connor McPherson’s play “The Birds” that opened Oct. 28, and lasted through Oct. 30, at Divadlo D21 in Vinohrady.
Directed by John Malafronte, Prague-based actor and director, this production has nothing in common with Alfred Hitchcock’s chilly horror classic “The Birds,” 1963. The play by Irish playwright, premiered in 2009, is an adaptation of a short story by Daphne du Maurier, published in 1952.
Three unlikely strangers become neighbours under the roof of an isolated farmhouse, hiding from a bird apocalypse, while the play questions the existence and need for God in the universe. Diane (Angela Jane Kemp), a middle-aged novelist, who keeps a ‘secret’ diary; Nat (Logan Hillier), a man in his forties, suffering from headaches and psychotic breakdowns; Julia (Victoria Hogan), a dimwitted girl who quotes parts from the Bible and flirts with Nat; and the farmer, Tierney (Curt Matthew).
It’s a monstrous story where the real monsters are inside the house, not outside. Even though the bird apocalypse is mentioned a couple of times during the play, it’s not about the birds. It’s a human drama, an emotional reflection of relationships in the face of societal collapse and in the wake of destruction. Do they band together or do they separate, become wild and animalistic in the literal sense of the word?
The acting, staging and directing was unquestionable; all the climactic, confrontational exchanges about truth and trust and self-knowledge felt extremely real, as if the crisis was happening with someone in the audience, in real life. Three main characters wish to care for each other, but can’t because of the baggage they have from their personal lives.
Kemp does a fantastic job in bringing to life the unhealthy jealousy of her character, Diane. Hogan, who is American, fit perfectly with rural, hardly recognisable British accent showing a country girl that quotes the Bible. Hillier, as if his own life story, didn’t have to bring any effort to play an ignorant Brit.
Even if you dislike Malafronte’s production – some people might find it unbearable because of lack of action on stage – you’ll have to admire sound effects that give you goose bumps and the remarkable emotional changes of the characters, where an indecisive mind becomes a lead and takes everything, spoiler alert, even human life.
This 90-minute, enjoyable and thought provoking play is for drama-enthusiasts and those, who enjoy long talks after the show, discussing the meaning of human existence. Unfortunately, “The Birds” won’t be produced by Blood, Love and Rhetoric again until 2018.
However, the group will be back with new productions before and after the New Year. The upcoming play, another success that premiered just a few weeks ago, “The Adding Machine” by Elmer Rice, directed by Logan Hillier and Beathe Linde will be shown on Nov. 18 and Nov. 20 at Divadlo D21: Mr. Zero, an accountant at a large corporation strives for promotion, but soon finds out that he will be replaced by a machine. The play is often referred to as “a landmark of American Expressionism” that reflects the interest of its subjective and non-realistic form of modern drama.
Photo courtesy of Blood, Love and Rhetoric