Birdsong – Devonshire Park Theatre 12-15 February 2014
Emotionally intense and beautifully captivating, Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong for theatre, produced by Alastair Whatley and the Original Theatre Company was spectacular!
Wagstaff restructured the story to create a flashback performance in the first act – highlighting the emotional connections between Stephen Wraysford’s love for Isabelle and his experiences of desolation during World War 1. Wraysford was effectively portrayed by George Banks, with Matrix-like body-morphing from one scene into another, and the convincing emotional diversity to switch the mood in an instant.
I don’t think I’ve seen flashback used in theatre like this before, and the way it was produced and performed was highly original. At first it was a bit confusing and hard to follow, but it very quickly fell into place and became the natural mode of storytelling.
The second act unfolded with the continuous chronological development of the plot line and the characters’ intertwined fates.
The character of Jack Firebrace, played by Peter Duncan, showed both emotional tenderness and comic lovability, and provided an anchor for the plot line during those flashback moments.
Theatrically, the set was stunning and simple – echoing the original cover of the novel, with glimpses of Amiens cathedral, the Azaire’s country home, the trenches and the tunnels and more – using the stage space innovatively to create all these different scenes in one, without the need for major set-changes. The lighting and sound worked as a character within this play, bringing life and emotional presence to every scene.
And I particularly enjoyed the use of authentic song and music, with live fiddle played by Sam Martin. It gave a depth of field to the production that only theatre can achieve.
This is a brilliant adaptation of the novel – it will rekindle your love of the story, the characters and the stage.
Definitely well worth watching!