Sample Theatre @ Iris Cinema
9:00pm, Thu 19 Mar 2009
The Iris is a tiny venue – maybe twenty seats, tops – and I haven’t seen a show here in years… since 2002, to be exact. But the Iris still manages to feel full with only half-a-dozen people in the audience. Maybe it’s the claustrophobia induced by the tight entry, with a pair of birds (that is, actresses dressed as avians) standing near the entrance along with a large electric piano. One of the birds starts playing, and it’s a worryingly simple plinky-plonk tune with a hint of moroseness – but then the other bird starts singing. That voice… that voice! It’s sweet and beautiful and mournful, and it manages to set the perfect tone for the play.
A young bird, Bertie, is scared and alone, but finds a friend in the gorgeous Sloan and her flock, led by Ken the Crow. To say that Ken is mad with power is an understatement; he rules the flock with an iron fist, accepting no autonomy, and using the power of the group to keep individuals in line. Not averse to engaging in a bit of violence himself, Ken sure surprised a chap in the front row when he stabbed a small bird to death; the blood spurts showered the lad. As the (short) play progresses, Bertie and Sloan secretly plan an escape from Ken’s clutches; the result is more blood. Lots and lots of blood. Which kinda explains why there was black plastic all over the floor.
Sure, it was overtly (perhaps naïvely) political, but at least it wasn’t handled in a clumsy manner; and what’s more, there are a lot of really nice touches. As Ken delivered his soliloquy, the rest of the cast quietly clucked around the Iris, and the performance ended with the birds softly singing whilst sprinkled around the audience. And yes, it wasn’t perfect – the lighting was decidedly lo-fi and simple, but still managed to be effective – but the good well outweighed the bad.
Sunny Side Up was exactly the kind of theatre that I want to see during a Fringe.