DramaNorth WestReview

The Search For The Black-Browed Albatross – HOME, Manchester

Writer: Samantha Miles

Director: Simon Panayi

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Charlie’s only twenty when her Dad dies. She hasn’t seen him for the past couple of years. Life has just been too busy. In her Dad’s old things she finds the ‘life list’ of birds that he set out to spot, all done apart from one – the rarest – at the end of the list – the Black-Browed Albatross.

Charlie doesn’t go home to be with her mum and her brother. Instead she sets out into a Scottish forest to find the elusive bird, a pilgrimage for her dad, and for herself.

The Backpack Ensemble are a young, Lincoln-based company, making playful, inventive and charmingly low-tech theatre to tell beautiful stories. They’ve certainly nailed it here with a moving mini-adventure told through movement, shadow puppetry, overhead projector slides and backpacks full of stuff that transforms into everything else they need to tell their story.

The theatrical storytelling gently breaks the fourth wall with some (minimal and non-scary) audience participation to create a thunderstorm, and occasional break-outs from character, so the actors can tell us how they made the show, why they made the decisions they did. This could be over-thought and pretentious, instead, it’s warm and friendly, drawing you in.

With live music from keyboard player/Musical Director Jordan Shiel, and Samantha Miles’s funny and poignant script, the piece, which is just short of an hour long, covers a lot of ground – a long train journey, the discovery of a cabin in the woods (and incumbent woodsman), a camp set up, a terrible storm, a near-death experience in a raging river. All this and Charlie’s backstory too.  The cast deliver it all with an easy confidence, and much great comic timing. They deliver a big emotional punch as it draws to a close.  As they pack the costumes, props, and even the overhead projector into their backpacks, it’s like saying farewell to a group of strolling players – and ones you hope will stroll your way again soon.

Reviewed on 4 July 2018 | Image: Contributed 


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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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