Stupid F**king Bird

Lightning Jar Theatre grabs the proverbial bull by the horns and gives us an evening of beautiful Chekhovian tragicomedy, staging Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.

stupid fucking bird woman

Posner’s reworking of ‘The Seagull’, first staged in 2013 in the USA, is hilarious and does a cracking job at extrapolating, highlighting and repackaging the essential elements of this famous play as he explores Chekhov’s themes of the nature of the artist, the need for love and the universal – what are we all here for?

Posner leaves in most of the good stuff from the original – Masha’s mourning attire (the Guy de Maupassant reference), quotes from Hamlet, the tortured artist and of course the seagull, Chekhov’s contradictory symbol.

stupid fucking bird couple

The story is all about unrequited love and the emptiness life can bring. The play explores the need for art and artists but at the same time pokes fun at both. Lightning Jar’s production effortlessly explores these themes. The seven members of the cast are excellent in capturing their characters’ thwarted dreams, deep obsessions and quiet desperation.

Cait Spiker’s Nina swans on and off the acting space like a lithe, supernatural being. Spiker is radiant in her role. Her final dialogue with Con (Michael Mack) was beautifully executed. She navigates through the complex ideas embedded in the text and conveys Nina’s emotional state with such fluency that you cannot listen to her rambled, heartfelt monologue without being moved, either laughing or crying, just as Chekhov intended. The angst was palpable.

Mack steers his Con with dexterous ease. This part could easily drown quite early with histrionic acting but Mack ensures Con teeters between tragic sincerity and comic craziness in equal parts. Having journeyed through Con’s annoying pleas and extreme obsessive behaviour all evening, it is a testament to Mack’s ability that he manages to engender such pathos following the final monologue with Nina. Pure Chekhov in the guise of Posner’s contemporary text.

Dylan Watson is obviously apt at playing the loveable clown and his character, Dev is this and more. With a handsome glint in his eyes, Watson displays excellent comic timing and his Dev delivers many observations and reactions with dry humour and engaging earnestness.

David Ross Paterson’s has great command of his character Sorn, displaying this ageing man’s take on life and all its disappointments. David Ross Paterson looks so comfortable on stage and his drunken scene was very convincing.

Carla Bonner’s Emma (Arkadina) was cleverly portrayed. Her condescending demeanour and reigning confidence are easily scratched away when she confronts the heart of her life. Hannah Greenwood’s Masha is a real constant throughout the play; her singing and presence on stage were gentle and engaging – a real ‘everyman’ role.

Nathan Sapsford’s Trig displays the requisite tortured artist mannerism and his musings and expressions of distaste for the man he had become were evident. Trig’s magnetic charm was convincing due to Sapsford’s subtle and smooth acting work.

It is a great directorial decision (Peter Blackburn) to set the production right in the middle of what could have been any northern Melbourne suburb. The production looks and sounds suburban Melbourne instead of anywhere else in USA. The requisite ‘lake’ in the script is depicted as a typical aussie backyard with its cut grass and Bunnings outdoor furniture. The kitchen set in later act looks like something out of a 1950s Northcote house. Emma trams it up from Armadale with her hipster boyfriend, Trig. Goth-like Mash and casual chino-wearing Dev are your typical Fitzroy renters and then there is Sorn, a Carlton doctor, trying to hang on to the Melbourne bohemian life of the 1980s.

A feature of the Posner’s script is the direct address to the audience. The actors who had to take on this task in this production enveloped us with charm and eye contact. It is a high point of the production, giving us a breather from the action, enabling commentary on the action and propelling the play forward. This meta-theatrical device enhances the play and brings about many laughs.

This is Lightning Jar Theatre’s inaugural production and if opening night is anything to go by, this company has so much potential to entertain and to deliver work of substance to theatre going audiences.

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