Writer: Miranda Barrett
Director: Lydia Harper
In an industry busy with its fair share of tragedies, musicals and comedies, the sad truth is that horror in live theatre is overdue a renaissance. If we are to scramble a conclusion as to why the genre is so scarcely explored in theatre, perhaps it simply boils down to the fact that horror is just hard to achieve successfully. True horror and terror is challenging to elicit in any medium, even more so in live performance. Despite an endearing and promising open, Birdwatching falls victim to the difficulties of translating horror conventions for the stage.
In this debut full-length production from writer Miranda Barrett, a trio of young filmmakers brave a bitter winter, isolating themselves in the woods as they attempt to shoot a new slasher short. Lasting a hour, Birdwatching’s plot is too meagre to fully drive any action forward. As the days crawl by for our characters their lucidity begins to loosen, plagued by hallucinations that grinds tension amongst them until psyches begin to break and inner demons creep through the cracks. There is little attention drawn to the source of the unnatural goings-on; they simply just, happen.
Nevertheless, Barrett and director Lydia Harper successfully navigate the character of Harris, colourfully portrayed by Alfie Noble, as the patriarchal bogeyman, uncomfortable to watch as he antagonises his companions for the sake of his film. Noble flexes the trajectory of his character from charismatic “everylad” to manipulative misogynist with ease, a legitimate horror with more precedence than any ghost or ghoul.
Actors Karen Barredo and Arno van Zelst certainly hold their own in their performances of Amy and Pete respectively, with Zelst specifically bringing a warmth to the production’s winter landscape as the kind-hearted and fumbling tech whizz Pete. It is unfortunate that the moments unearthing past demons feel fleeting, resulting in two-dimensional characters with no one to root for when lives are on the line.
Despite Kelia McCullough’s clever props and Ella Fritt’s vibrant lighting design, the repetitive motifs become more frustrating than frightening and the climax is cut short before it begins,
Runs until 24 October 2021