Little Bird – Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Paul Capsis - Little Bird
Paul Capsis – Little Bird

Little Bird is a family affair. The writer is married to the director who in turn is the State Theatre Company of SA’s CEO’s son as well as being the brother of an Adelaide Cabaret Festival executive producer. It also marks the first co-production between the STCSA and the Cabaret Festival.

Little Bird tells the complete life story of Wren as he engages the world around him on a journey of self-discovery revealing transformations of sexuality and gender while exploring notions of grief and longing.

Hyped as “a dark fairy-tale for grown-ups”, author Nicki Bloom’s story was inspired by a Grimm Brothers fairy-tale (The Juniper Tree) but the narrative seems more suited to ballet than cabaret.

The mercurial Paul Capsis is a natural choice for the role of Wren in this 70-minute solo performance. Capsis appears in a white box centre stage looking (and acting) like Riff Raff (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) on heroin. Bloom has stated the show is “less cabaret and more theatre with songs” and she’s right. Little Bird is a series of distinct episodes as Wren reveals his struggles in life. Capsis is at his best when channelling women rockers and interpreting pop/rock/punk music. This role severely restricts his innate charisma in order to narrate and act out the storyline.

[pull_left]Capsis appears in a white box centre stage looking (and acting) like Riff Raff on heroin.[/pull_left]

The show is too long in its current form and lacks the frenetic dynamism of, for example, I Am My Own Wife. Bloom’s writing vacillates between silly and grandiose to the point where the production itself looks like it came out of the fried brain of an East German refugee circa 1956-’62. The show is so heavily derivative it wouldn’t be out-of-order for Capsis to break into Monty Python’s ‘The Lumberjack Song’ during the Rocky The Woodcutter vignette.

Composers Cameron Goodall and Quentin Grant are terribly under-utilised. Little Bird is at its best when the three combine on the R&B defiance of ‘The Woodcutter Song’.

Geordie Brookman’s direction is just corny. In fact, the whole show feels like it was produced with all the disconnected glow of love and success. Its surrealist sincerity smacks of Konstantin’s play-within-a-play from Chekhov’s The Seagull.

All in all Little Bird is an expensive indulgence, which should never have gone beyond a back-yard performance in front of admiring family and friends.

2 thoughts on “Little Bird – Adelaide Cabaret Festival

  • Ohh c’mon it wasn’t that bad!
    It was a deliberate pastiche, a bit of Rocky Horror, a lot of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and even a fair touch of the John Rechy novel, ‘City of Night’…
    Capsis is a captivating performer though..

  • I couldn’t disagree more. It was captivating from beginning to end, with Capsis deftly transforming between characters and multiple roles employing that amazing voice of his. At times light-hearted and funny, at others deeply moving, The life journey of Capsis as the little bird Wren was played with strength and vulnerability right up until his final return home. It was a spellbinding performance, and the thunderous applause from the rest of the audience suggested they enjoyed it too.

    Perhaps the writer of this review had had a bad or something, as his review sounds nothing like the show I went to see.


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