The Blue Bird, directed and adapted by Harry Winsome, played its only night last Friday as part of USYD’s Verge Festival. It was an ambitious production, staged beautifully within the courtyard of Old Teachers College, and strived to be an original reimagining of Maeterlink’s 1908 play.
Of immediate and worthy note upon entering, and throughout the play itself, was the set and lighting design. Clear and straightforward without being simplistic, this production had some incredible technical work which elevated a number of key scenes. Also impressive were the costumes and makeup, which were paired beautifully with the features of each character.
The performances were decent, with stand outs being Georgia Drinan as Mytyl and Jo Bradley as Dog. Drinan brought a wonderfully sweet innocence and sense of humour to the young heroine, and the few moments of concern in the play arise from threats toward her. Special mention should also be made of her work as the show’s choreographer. Bradley too deserves praise for a performance of boundless energy and enthusiasm perfectly befitting the role.
In spite of this, the show was not without its flaws. Most of the characters lack significant depth beyond their stated motivations, leading to some scenes in which certain actions seemed out of place, or to come from nothing. The also hampered the romance subplot between two of the leads: Tytyl and Light; while cute, it seemed to lack substantive development in the script.
Additionally, certain segments of the play, in particular the Palace of Night, felt less like cohesive scenes and more like a series of big showpieces briefly interspersed with an explanation as to what each meant. While in isolation these were impressive moments, combined, the effect was somewhat jarring and did little to advance either plot or character.
Overall, however, The Blue Bird was a promising production. Harry Winsome and his team deserve to be applauded for attempting a show of this scale and complexity. For the most part, this show was entertaining and a true visual showcase, but it is let down by a flawed script that offers little depth and is at times confusing. The Blue Bird may not be magical, but it is still enchanting enough to be worth seeing.