The first thought that goes through one’s head before a stage version of The Birds is: I wonder how they’re going to make the birds happen. Notoriously difficult to work with, birds – all beak and feathers and malevolent intent. Wicked little pseudo dinosaurs. But after sitting through this painfully poor production, I think they’d have been better off filling the theatre with pigeons and leaving the rest to chance.
The answer to the initial question, incidentally, is: they don’t. The titular birds appear only through sinister recordings, which invariably cause the actors to gaze skittishly skyward. The play, adapted by Conor McPherson (The Weir, The Night Alive) from the Daphne du Maurier short story, is set in a US coastal farmhouse long after the world has fallen to our new avian overlords. While the source material is all suspense and allegory, this version is boiled down to a run-of-the-mill survival horror, in which the three characters – a middle-aged man and woman, and a teenage girl with dubious intent – squabble over tinned goods.
It takes place in what appears to be Leicester Square Theatre’s broom cupboard and the production values are nonexistent. This leaves a relentless, pitiless focus on the three players, none of whom have it in them to save the day, least of all former cruiserweight boxer Glenn McCrory, whose mangled accent sounds like a South African Yogi Bear.
Avoid this play like you would avian flu.
First published in City A.M.