SUDS Presents: The Blue Bird

April Saleeba reviews a heartwarming Christmas play

Photo: Aaron Cornelius

The Blue Bird doesn’t just advertise itself as a Christmas play: it truly commits. Right from the second you enter the foyer, you are drawn in by some of the most enjoyable aspects of the festive season: tinsel, gingerbread, and fairy lights. To my delight, and to the delight of many others judging by the audible gasps, fairy lights featured heavily in the incredible set design masterminded by Maddy Picard, along with a canopy of sheets that made it feel as if the entire audience were huddled under a blanket fort.

Directed by Harry Winsome and produced by Aaron Cornelius, The Blue Bird tells the tale of two children who meet a fairy on Christmas Eve. This fairy  sets them the task of finding the Blue Bird, an obvious but nonetheless touching symbol for happiness. Along the way, they meet many unusual characters who help or hinder their journey.

Standout performances included Anita Donovan as Fairy, who spoke with clarity and power, and Tim Doran, who committed entirely to embodying the role of Sugar. Of particular note was the performance of director Harry Winsome, who stepped into the role of Dog 24 hours before opening night, and yet managed to perform as if he had been rehearsing for weeks. Generally speaking, some lines were lost due to volume or diction problems, or appeared to be forgotten, but these moments were managed. Similarly, incidents such as faulty props or falling backdrops were dealt with rapidly and professionally.

Just as impressive was the work of an outstanding production team. The sound and lighting, in combination with the smoke machine and other effects, were well-timed to contribute to the atmosphere of a scene without drawing the audience’s attention. The costumes were similarly mesmerising and varied, something that is particularly impressive given the minimal budget of a SUDS Summer Slot.

The Blue Bird has the feel of an upgraded version of a primary school Christmas concert; the sweetness and the enchantment are not lost, but the actors bring a complexity to the story that moved an adult audience from laughter to shock to moments of silence. Truly, ‘The Blue Bird’ is a festive experience you’d be sorry to miss. It will leave you with that warm happy feeling you only get from a truly wholesome experience, and its message may be a simple one of learning to find happiness, but it is a valuable one.

The Blue Bird is on for one more performance tonight at The Cellar Theatre; limited tickets are available at the door.