Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.
Ava is on the cusp of adulthood. 16 next month and facing a future outside the care home, all that currently lies ahead of her is an expansive and overwhelming unknown. Her mum doesn’t want her to come home, sheltered accommodation will be miles away from manipulative Lee, and Dan might just like her. Luckily, as best friend Tash reassures her, they always have the option of just flying away…
As we join Ava as she navigates her way through this minefield of complex relationships, from the exploitative to the genuinely heartfelt, Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.
The stand out performance for me was Siwan Morris’s portrayal of Ava’s Mum, Claire. Throughout her interactions with Ava there was a stark discrepancy between what I was seeing and how it made me feel. We witness a mother, riddled with jealousy, rejecting her daughter time and again, in complete denial of the fact that her judgement of a new partner could be at fault. Yet underneath this front we feel the desperation of Claire’s intrinsic love for her daughter, a love that perhaps blinds her to the fact that she could ever have wronged her to this extent. A denial which continues to define both her and her daughter’s lives. Morris draws us in with her subtle portrayal of Claire’s own vulnerability as she asserts, as if to convince herself more than us, that she ‘had no choice’.
Georgia Henshaw’s portrayal of Ava is brave, raw and heartbreakingly funny, achieving a sensitive balance between Ava’s anger and her innocence, which is frequently represented in the damaging relationships she enters to fill the void that the desperation for a sense of belonging can create. Georgia subtly teases out these different levels of Ava, from the frantic energy that exudes from the character when she is engaging with her mum, to the fiery exchanges her evident frustration at her circumstance often results in these exchanges resorting to.
What is undoubtedly a challenging view is softened by some stark moments of tenderness – beacons of hope which the audience cling to desperately amongst the evident turmoil Chandler’s characters are facing. The unfiltered emotion in Dan and Ava’s embrace, Ava’s raucous cackling as she’s tickled by Tash, Claire’s reluctant admittance that she may in fact have got it wrong; moments such as these provide some light relief for the audience and humanises the characters.
The world premiere of Katherine Chandler’s Bird at Sherman Cymru this month immerses audiences in a range of difficult themes which more often than not simply aren’t provided with a platform. By giving a voice to those who are increasingly marginalised by society and the media, Chandler humanises individuals in Ava’s position, providing a refreshing alternative narrative which challenges established preconceptions and explores the individuals behind the circumstance. Bird is a thought provoking piece and an accolade to Welsh new writing.
Director- Rachel O’Riordan
Writer- Katherine Chandler
Designer- Kenny Miller
Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater
Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin
Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy
Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys