Review: Moonbird, Handprint Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

After previously seeing Jonny Cotsen and Mr and Mrs Clark with Louder Is Not Always Clearer, it is safe to say my interest in BSL performances and learning BSL has peaked more than ever before.

If we’re being honest, between us friends, I am not sure before Cotsen’s show, that I have ever seen a show with BSL. Not even a captioned performance. And for that I feel shame, but also think it makes a great point of what Cotsen and Handprint Theatre and trying to achieve and put across in the industry with these shows.

Moonbird is a gorgeous tale of a Prince whose parents begin to realise he is deaf. Their struggle is explored on how to connect with their child and their feelings of failure towards him, but we also explore Orla’s (the Prince) struggle with being deaf, the world around him and ultimately loneliness. Enter the Moonbird who introduces him to nature, where he learns how he can communicate, and rebuild hIS relationship with his parents.

Throughout the production, BSL is communicated, along with subtitles projected behind. They are patient and take their time, not rushing through this to fully fulfil the message coming across. As one who does not know BSL, the movements of communication are like a beautiful dance, and the performers throw their all into it, incredibly bringing emotion and feeling across. If there were not spoken word accompanying the signing, I believe that you would still understand the story and feel every emotion within it.

The performers do well to change characters – a small group of 4, the majority double, even triple up from humans in the palace, to deer roaming the fields and monkeys playfully prancing the stage. During this time, there is almost no speech at all, purely the communication through action, movement and facial expressions. And nothing is over the top – it is enough for the stage yet subtle enough to be realistic and understandable.

Use of puppetry (my favourite!) comes in the form of baby Orla and Moonbird, and every movement is carefully thought out and taken time with. There is total fluidity and realism with this and you forget that these are not real actors on stage.

Lastly, the staging, lighting and general composition of the aesthetics are magical and beautiful. Simple yet effective, it feels as if we have jumped into a story book, with purples and blues, peacock colours spanning the stage, and basic costuming and props to help the story along – but ultimately this story is about the physical and nothing draws away from this.

Moonbird, while a production for young families, is really for everyone. The story is what every child’s story should be – magical, engaging and with a moral to the story. Moonbird is such an important performance for theatre going forward, I dare anyone to come away without being mesmerised and championing BSL performances.

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