It’s not such much the tale as the teller. More specifically not what is said but how it is said, and sung when it comes down to it. Little Bird is a fairytale that struggles ever so slightly on the textual level but as a performance it is engagingly enchanting.
It’s hard to write a fairytale in this cynical age, especially when intended for an adult audience. Little Bird is a contemporary coming-of-age fairytale that tells of transformation and a journey motivated by grief. Playwright Nicki Bloom uses a poetic narrative voice to tell the story with sings and music by Cameron Goodall and Quentin Grant. The script had moments where it seemed like Bloom was trying to force an emotion from the listener (not the performer). As an example performative repetition ever-so-slightly distanced me from the action and pointed out the artifice of the writing. That said, these moments had some audience members in tears so perhaps I’m just a victim of the aforementioned cynicism. While the dialogue combined with the songs and music to complete the performance there was a change of voice between the sections of spoken word and those of song. The songs were amazing and flitted through genres like a…well, yes, and they did fit the production well but the two voices, the writer and the lyricist, were not always speaking the same language.
Those voices harmonised into the stunning voice of Peter Capsis, the storyteller and the singer of songs. He performs with the confidence and theatre filling presence as if this was written for him, which it was. With shifts from narrator to character and from rock song to ballad, the voice is always unmistakably Capsis. I couldn’t separate the performer from the play, as if this story was his. He made the show intimate and personal while connecting with every audience member. The multi-talented Paul Capsis attracted the audience and made us relax into the tale through the seeming ease with which he performed and the warmth which he shared.
The set helped transport the audience into the fairytale space. It felt like a storybook which opens at the start and, as if in a dream, elements come and go. This combined with the lighting created a stage design that was as ethereal as the performance we were so lucky to share.
Little Bird is a fairytale, a song cycle, a story, an emotional monologue and a spectacular performance from a gifted performer. There are shows that have all kinds of technical wizzbangery but a man on a seemingly simple stage telling a tale and singing songs is something extraordinary that resonates with a part of us unimpressed by the sparkle. Although, sparkle he does. While the script might trip a little, it isn’t the words but the person who says them. Nobody else could say these words like they’re said here. It’s hard to be cynical with the ideas of Little Bird in the room.