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Follow the Movement with MATTHEW HAWKINS What have we made?

Effectiveness lies in how much we identify with protagonists akin to ourselves; how much we’re all in this together

And The Birds Did Sing
Tron Theatre, Glasgow

 

WHEN, at the end of Curious Seed’s show And the Birds Did Sing, the performer Christine Devaney voiced the question: “Has anything changed?” I could have leapt to my feet and honestly answered yes. 

Her timing was apposite. I had begun to be keenly aware of how differently I now felt, in comparison with having breached Glasgow’s Tron Theatre for a nestle and a curious watch, just an hour prior. 

By what alchemy does Devaney draw us in? Certainly, our author and guide shapes up radically; enjoying a spine of tempered steel and the surprising stealth to reconfigure herself into deep folds and asymmetric knots. 

She indicates narrative twists and turns with a range of bird-like head-swivels and a blink of her doleful eyes. She palms her props with adept care, adopting a legible catalogue of clearly motivated functional and reflex movement. In a heightened whirl of extended limbs, she speaks of love and of ”bursting with belief.”

Elsewhere our barefoot protagonist pads around her stage insistently, at a measured rate of approx. 120 paces per minute. Using clay bricks, she assembles a momentary pulpit/pedestal or teeters atop an extemporised low-rise wall, thereafter accelerating her movement modes into an edgy mash, projecting febrile optimism or nameless crises.

Hard on the heels of initial scene-setting, And the Birds Did Sing’s script also vents the rhetorical question: “what have we made?” 

Metropolitan Glasgow (Christine Devaney’s birthplace) with its cling of trees and moss; its hillside vistas; its post-industrial voids, looming Victoriana, fanciful sandstone, infinite pebbledash neighbourhoods, and bafflingly deserted service areas, could be indicted in answer, whereas here at The Tron we witness an alternative, in the form of this show’s installation of hand-hewn hangings and floor pieces by Yvonne Buskie. In a world constructed (horribly misconstrued?) by men, here is the considered subtlety of a multi-media performance that allows us to perceive its responsiveness, couched in aesthetic gesture, or something more “other,” more traumatised at root.

The fluctuating audibility in this work’s spoken monologue is striking, given the performer’s clear timbre and evident lung power at key moments. On reflection, Ms Devaney’s writing is not solely in quest of ear-catching stylised prose. She is (bletheringly?) aiming toward something else. 

Equivalently, Luke Sutherland’s instrumental/electronic taped score never fully alights on ”earworm” melodic figures. Instead, his is a soundworld of lyrical plucks and tones, undercut with episodic industrial pounding – an ominous pulse. 

As in storytelling procedures hereabouts, effectiveness lies not so much in detailing the iconic artefact, or even in the significance of a topic, but more in the degree to which we are beguiled into seeing, listening hard, and receiving; how much we identify protagonists as akin to ourselves; how much we’re all in this together.

Innovatively, this show plays alongside a locally curated second half called Staying On which will vary in solo personnel with each successive evening – perhaps elaborated by Devaney in mufti, as happened here. I found it rewarding to stay on. Three artists successfully aired something new. 

The contrast between fresh freestanding items and an incrementally evolved first act is bracing and rather magical.

On tour in Scotland until April 6. For more information see: curious-seed.com

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