Three Birds – Tower Theatre, London

Reviewer: Christine Stanton

Writer: Janice Okoh

Director: Lyla Smith-Abass

Tiana, Tionne and Tanika are the epitome of independence. Left alone to fend for themselves they’re forced to confront adulthood head on, even though the youngest of them is still only in primary school. Having to hide their newfound secret from their community, nosy teachers and even the local drug dealer is proving to be a struggle – especially when they’re all close to breaking point.

This narrative has a lot of promise, with the scope to be daring and shocking, but it just doesn’t pick up the steam needed to power through to a thrilling conclusion. The first half of the play feels lost, trying too hard to be ambiguous, to the point that the intrigue dissipates into confusion. Too much emphasis is placed on mundane elements of the characters’ lives rather than slowly shifting the focus onto the real heart of the story.

As the story plays out, pieces slowly click into place, but with such an uninspiring beginning, all the tension, excitement and surprise that could have been present, simply doesn’t exist. Pitched as a dark comedy, there are no real humorous moments – subtle or otherwise – and instead comes across more as an unsatisfying fly-on-the-wall evening, watching a random family daydream in their living room about what could have been.

The set design, by Shereen Ali, is fantastic and really redeems much of this performance by truly transporting you straight into the heart of a family home. The small touches, such as the items in the fridge or photos on the wall, bring the room alive and add the warmth that the script lacks.

Both writer Janice Okoh, and director, Lyla Smith-Abass, would be better off making this a shorter, punchier production. The aspects of a darkly unique story are hidden away in too much preamble, so it would be great if they chopped away the ‘filler’ scenes and really showcased the individuality and strangeness that could lead them to a real winner.

Runs until 16 October 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Unique but unsatisfying

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. 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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  1. I thought the actors in the play were absolutely brilliant. The story was a good one and helped give a bit of insight into the individuality of the characters before getting to the drama which I really enjoyed.

  2. I agree with you Mark. Three Birds is a great play and the actors are fantastic. It was interesting to read that the reviewer felt the play should be rewritten when the writer won the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting for this play? It was a standing ovation last night.

  3. It’s a highly unusual and complex piece. The play itself is dynamic, full of twists and turns and truly unique.

    Understanding how fearful this vulnerable black family were in dealing with the issues that these characters faced, deeply affected me. Watching the creepy scenes with the pedo drug dealer was awkward and uncomfortable — very convincing. Understanding the desperation for these young siblings to stay together, rather than face going into care, as many of my friends own friend have experienced, validated the storyline all the more. As I watched it, I did consider that not everybody would react to this play with that understanding, coming from different backgrounds and not able to conceive the grossly horrific life traumas some vulnerable adults still have to face in the UK.

    The acting was excellent. There was a disparity with the English accents amongst the female siblings, and the front door positioning was the only thing I found a little incongruent.

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