Aug 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24
On entering the theater a lady with feathers on her jacket (later we find out she is a grouse) asks if we have any bread in our bags. We sit down and our eyes settle on Rita Grebe, a woman who believes she’s a bird–a Great Crested Grebe. It’s impossible not to find Rita fascinating; she’s grotesque, but weirdly beautiful. Her Grebe feathers draw you in first, as the eye admires her plumage, and soon I?m drawn to the two feathers that spring from Rita’s head, like playful exaggerated eyebrows raised quizzically. We’re soon drawn further in to this alternative world by Caroline Smith’s performance. Her physical movements and facial features are compulsive; I would like to turn away, but can’t, it’s mesmeric; the feeling is further enhanced by Rita’s vocabulary and diction: Germanic, colloquial, idiosyncratic, not always easy to follow, but the sounds that Rita makes attract: Rita invites us to become twitchers, and able to jizz (double meanings abound: in this sense it means identification of bird-like features.). Later in the performance Rita invites the audience (twitchers) to take photos on their mobile phones. Unsettling, but again compulsive. The performance is darkly comic, even when it is not entirely clear why. When Rita feeds (or rather gently stuffs) bread into the grouse, for example, it’s uncomfortable, but there’s disturbed laughter.
The performance is enhanced by the setting; we are in what appears to be a semi-derelict studio that contains semi-circular wooden seats of the type that might be seen when watching Victorian scientific dissections of human organs. There is also a lady behind Rita narrating the performance in sign language; however, quite subtly she enhances the performance further with facial responses to Rita’s monologue. All of which enhances the feeling of disorientation. The performance has something of the atmosphere of an avian inspired Chris Morris satire; the world is recognisable, but defamiliarized, and unsettling. In short, it?s fabulous; Caroline Smith?s performance is one of real artistry. For those who like to drink a little darkness, this show is essential.FIVE STARS
Reviewer – Paul Rivers