Review: Cagebirds at Pyramid Theatre
Words by Rory O’Dwyer / Edited by Mia Stapleton
Rory O’Dwyer review Cagebirds at Pyramid Theatre.
Upon entering Pyramid, the audience is immediately thrust into the dark and dystopic atmosphere of the ‘Cagebirds’ theatre. The otherworldly lighting and sound let us know from the very beginning this is not going to be a lighthearted or merry show, the sensory ambience forewarns instead that we are in store for an unsettling and melancholic experience, an effect very clearly intended by the director (Harry Daisley).
There is clear synergy and unity conveyed amidst the cast of Cagebirds, through the detailed costuming, gloomy makeup, and captivating physical theatre, yet the subtle differences are just enough to reveal the distinct deviations of the characters from one another. The chemistry between the actors extends beyond just their impressive execution of, at times, quite complex dramatic choreography, and is equally evident in their sharp and expressive dialogue.
Each actor finds space to display their individual character’s traits whilst also maintaining fluid cooperativeness with their cast. Izzie Massie, playing Angel, commands an incredible stage presence that is fitting of the mother figure in this ensemble. She delivers her lines with perfection, giving a convincing performance. Sawyer (Rosina Nelson) has a powerful combination of physical and vocal characterisation as the incessant hypochondriac. Quinn (Amelia Sissions) and Constance (Poppy Harris) both have a consistent and confident grasp on their characters, managing to inject fragments of humour into an otherwise entirely bleak world, as the food-obsessed guzzler and self-absorbed narcissist, respectively. Doriyan (Billy Rilot) fulfils every trademark feature of the old paternal curmudgeon triumphantly; a man that complains about the world around him to no end and a character that’s curiously familiar to us all. Grace (Charlotte Pine) has a tough job of exposing the humanity of these seemingly robotic Cagebirds to the audience, and she pulls it off tremendously, painting a thousand strokes of human emotion in each back and forth of her deliberating.
However, the central tension of the play rests on the shoulders of the Wild One (Joe Cox), the Master (Angus Bell), and their mysteriously sinister relationship. The Master enters by scouring the verges of the round theatre and immediately impresses upon the audience an ominous air of terror and authority. He seems intent on breaking the spirited will of the Wild One, who is equally intent on resisting this indoctrination and refuses to become one of his ‘sweeties’ like the other cagebirds.
Although the script is not dense with the context of how the cagebirds came about to be imprisoned in this way, the direction of physical storytelling reveals to us, in shades, the dark and twisted balances of power that are going on. The cagebirds shift from a movement dominated by freeness and fluidity to a movement of mechanisation and rigidity, in response to the unsettling presence of the Master examples this. Such dynamism is also achieved through the expressive intermingling of voice-overs, clouds of smoke, perpetual yet changing synth music, and dazzling lights. On the point of lighting, each cagebird is equipped with a mere hand torch, scarcely able to illuminate a foot in front of them, whereas the Master is never seen without his long bright baton that he wields menacingly around the stage, presenting him as these cagebirds only real source of light, perhaps reflective of how these cagebirds’ access to knowledge of ‘the outside’ hinges upon this nefarious man. This is until the disruptive entrance of the Wild One who not only protests the Master’s control but also offers the other cagebirds an alternative source of perspective on the outside, but it is a perspective which they reject and cower away from. The motif of light and power is maintained as the Wild One’s determination to save the others manifests in a glorious display of light that showers the cagebirds and audience alike with the reflected golden streams that seem to radiate from the Wild One as though he were mosaical beacon of power. The Wild One’s repeated attempts to liberate the Cagebirds, both physically and mentally, surmounted in a dramatic display of tragedy that affects even the Master emotionally. The production team (Louisa Walsh, Alicia Edwards-Farrer, Ela Fisher, Xiayou Ge, Ananya Kulshreshtha, Saranya Anandraj, and Jeremy Allilaire) should be proud of the evident amount of energy and skill that has gone into creating this innovative and visionary piece of theatre.
(Image Credits: Julian Tong)