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Lucy Russell reviews Studiospace’s latest show, the utterly charming and visually beautiful The Blue Bird, currently playing at the Wickham Theatre.

‘She has this strange idea she needs a bird to be happy’

It is this strange idea, this peculiar greed and need for man to always have more, that sends Tytyl (Guy Woods) and Mytyl (Sophie Haxworth) on an incredible journey to find the elusive bluebird of happiness in this charming children’s tale.

It is no mean feat to make a rather dated children’s story engaging to an audience comprised largely of undergraduates, and a significant amount of credit is due to the incredibly high energy of the ensemble, some of whom play up to five different roles. The collection of bizarre and eclectic characters gives ample opportunity for some stand-out performances and brilliantly absurd comedic moments.

Jonas Moore attempting to climb inside a pan of bread and Tullio Campanale breaking off his ‘sugar stick’ fingers for snacks at regular intervals—as well as clashes between the heartbreakingly loyal and earnest Dog (Flavia Cheeseman), and Isaac Lawrence-Thompson’s scheming Tilo the Cat. These provide a great contrast to some undoubtedly sinister moments, particularly in the Palace of Night, and Lily Carr’s performance as a calculating and imperious ‘Night’ warning the children to end their quest.

Jonas Moore and Ella Church in ‘The Blue Bird’

However, the real magic in this production lies in its design. There is a cohesive aesthetic throughout the entire production, from the ‘bluebird’ stamps as the audience enter, to the origami blue birds in the foyer, and that is before even entering the theatre itself. The costumes and set are all incredibly detailed and seem to capture perfectly the distinct feel of each of the worlds the children visit in the play.

Take a peek behind the curtain to hear the cast and crew’s thoughts on the play’s themes and characters 

The Blue Bird is a real feat of theatrical design and it is almost the sheer scale of the production, the sound, the animation and the simply stunning set and costume design that allows the audience to suspend their disbelief and enter so willingly into these fantastical worlds as they all appear to be so beautiful and so captivating in their own right.

[The play] is completely charming, visually stunning and a showcase of incredible talent

The Blue Bird is a real spectacle and a testament to what can be achieved with a 48-person strong production team. Sometimes, however, it does seem as if the play’s own scale is also its biggest challenge, as each new world the children visit requires a new set of explanations and dose of exposition, meaning dialogue occasionally drags a little.

Guy Woods as protagonist Tytyl

There is some confusion in the actual message of Maurice Maeterlinck’s tale— whichfirst premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1908 as L’Oiseau Bleu. While it appears quite moralistic there is certainly a strange discomfort in silencing the trees and animals to conclude that ‘man is God’. The idea that the audience themselves must continue the search for the bluebird, despite the fact it is clear that the ‘happiness’ they have been searching for cannot be actively sought and comes from contentment with the things you already have, means the play seems to end without a conclusive resolution.

Nevertheless, The Blue Bird remains completely charming, visually stunning and a showcase of incredible talent—even if its aesthetic magic does perhaps flutter by without a whole lot of dramatic heft. If there is anything to be taken away from the The Blue Bird, it is surely that dogs are far more trustworthy than cats, happiness is easily found if you just know where to look, and one can achieve incredible things with a brilliant design team.

★★★

The Blue Bird runs at the Wickham Theatre until 11th March. Tickets are available here.


What were your thoughts on Studiospace’s latest show? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @EpigramArts

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