Fascinating fable enchants all
By Bradley Storer
Australian cabaret and musical theatre star Paul Capsis comes to Melbourne with Little Bird, a dark modern fairytale by playwright Nicki Bloom, with music and songs by Cameron Goodall and Quentin Grant.
Little Bird tells the story of a young boy named Wren, magically conceived by the fall of feather on a winter’s day, and his journey to find a missing parent as well as discover his own identity. Bloom’s writing thrillingly mines a vein of moral and sexual ambiguity to create a bewitching narrative that draws questions of gender, love and the essential idea of the self.
The show works best when it stays within the realm of the fantastical and fey – the first section of the show, interwoven with the voice of a mysterious and bird-like narrator, is intensely engaging in its sparse poetical prose that draws on all the tropes of fairy tales while twisting and subverting them in thrilling new ways. When the tale reaches a metropolitan city and touches on the story of a cross-dressing woodcutter, the narrative takes a turn into punk rock territory, reminiscent of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which although entertaining jars against the overall tone of the show in a way that makes it far less compelling.
Capsis himself is never less than completely spell-binding, his use of body and voice a masterclass in story-telling, summoning up all the characters with a simple shift in posture and voice while always maintaining the clarity of Wren’s own central development and journey reacting against these other characters. His androgynous rock-star charisma is used to great effect at various points, roaring glam-rock ballads that recall the work of Queen and David Bowie along with scintillating gypsy rhythms, but always finding the deep vulnerability and sadness of Wren to tear-inducing effect. The simple but surprisingly versatile set and incredibly nuanced lighting provided by Geoff Cobham must also be praised, responding to the mood and rhythm of the story in ways that heighten the drama and atmosphere invaluably.
This rich, luscious fable starring one of our best country’s best performers is truly an event not to be missed, drawing us into a dream-like, magical (but on some level, still achingly real) landscape that leaves the audience with the visceral and satisfying joy of a story well told.