United Players of Vancouver

The Birds

By Aristophanes, adapted by Glen Cairns

Director: Tom Kerr Set Design: Dana Williams Costume Design: Tanya Seltenrich Lighting and Sound Design: Darren W. Hales Choreography: Adam Henderson Stage Manager: Claudine Parker

Venue: Jericho Arts Centre
Dates: 31 January - 23 February 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

This is a 21st-century presentation of a 5th century BC play. Glen Cairns has preserved the political satire and somewhat bawdy flavour of this Greek comedy. The odd topical reference is interspersed into this translation/adaptation, in keeping with the spirit of the original.

Presented in the round, this production is very perceptively directed by Tom Kerr. He uses the four sided acting space, with its multiple entries, so well that all members of the audience can both see and hear all the action. The bare acting space is centred by a circular tree stump rostrum which can be ascended by discreet steps.

The soundscape with its variety of birdcalls and wind moaning begins before the entry of the actors, introducing the audience to the outdoor world of the birds. The bird costumes are ingenious and well designed in their simplicity. The masks worn by all the birds, some of the gods and humans are brilliantly designed and executed, but no acknowledgement of these is given in the programme. The lighting is atmospheric and enhances the changing mood of each scene and no one is left in the dark when he or she should be seen.

The versatile Glen Cairns has not only written the witty, humourous script, he also plays a variety of parts throughout the evening. His are properly earthy performances not least successful when he plays ungodlike immortals. Damon Calderwood's Peisetaros keeps the action swirling round and he and Glen Cairns' Euelpides open the comedy, setting the mood for the evening.

The birds are characterized by their costumes and by their well thought out and well executed movement. Who could not but admire the stately gait of the gaudy flamingo (Christine Ianneta), the wonderful waddle of the pigeon or the temperamental pride of James Rowley's hoopoe? This busy actor also plays other characters, the most outstanding being his dignified regal Poseidon. Procne the nightingale (Beth McIvor) is persuaded to give one of her rare appearances, singing most melodiously. Almost all the members of this large cast play more than one role, besides being members of the chorus, that indispensable part of a Greek comedy. They are to be congratulated on their characterization and movement,

This is an animated and enjoyable production which moves at a good pace. The Greek satire is as apposite today as it was 2,500 years ago.

Tickets, reservations and information at 604-224-8007, or visit www.unitedplayers.com

© 2003, Jane Penistan