Citizens Young Co, Citizens Theatre, 12 – 14 May
Organised as a comic accompaniment to the tragic trilogy of This Restless House, The Birds certainly delivers on the comic relief front. And more. As a contemporary adaptation of Aristophanes’ longest surviving play, Stephen Greenhorn’s play is a warm, saucy comedy filled with laughter and performed with a great comedic air.
Performed in the Citizen’s cosy Circle Studio, the play opens with the actors debating who will play which role on a feather-strewn stage. This progresses into a continued change of actors playing the roles of Pisthetaerus and Euelpides – the play’s protagonists – disillusioned with the state of Athenian politics and hoping to join the Hopoe in the kingdom of the birds. The character-swapping that later occurs keeps the story fresh, and also keeps the characters engaging by allowing different members of the cast to emphasise different aspects of the characters they depict.
Greenhorn’s comedy, laced with innuendo, provided mirthful laughter throughout the night and was fluidly performed by the Citizen’s young actors. The jokes, accompanied by song, prevent the play from steering too far into the political – for which the Athens of the play is continually ridiculed. The music throughout the play strikes a perfect balance between the plot-driving and the melodic with both rousingly catchy full-cast numbers, and interludes of the sweet-voiced character of the nightingale.
The second act begins with birds squawking at audience members as they file back into the studio, throwing the audience back into the drama that had been mounting prior to the interval. The protagonists, now evolved to join the birds, lead their fellow species into an attempted overthrow of the traditional Greek gods. This spirals into a complicated and convoluted exposition of the hierarchy of the kingdoms. Eventually, the birds realise that even the gods above them are not the uppermost height of authority, and their plan to rule over all comes crashing down, melting into a hopeful song declaring the bright future for the Kingdom of the birds.
Overall, the Citizen’s Young Co. provided a gleeful night for their audience; one full of laughter, and a reminder that even a play that saw its biggest success in 414BC can bring joy to an audience nowadays.
Image – Citizen’s Young Co.