Mamaloucos, Aristophanes’ The Birds

Review in Issue 14-3 | Autumn 2002

For a company whose defiant mission is to create work based on circus that ‘throws out the rulebook and starts again', what better play to experiment with than Aristophanes’ The Birds? This satirical comedy not only questions and denies the laws of politics and religion but also provides the perfect opportunity for theatre and circus to fuse in a marvellous, unholy coupling that has seldom before been attempted with such success.

Director Kathryn Hunter makes full use of the slapstick comedy central to the original play, and by doing so she binds the beauty and grace of her birds tightly to the absurdity of the human race. Though our focus in The Birds is captured by the artists who perform the fantastic feats of flight on corde lisse, static trapeze, bungee trapeze and trampoline, it is drawn continually back to the antics of Pezza and Eck, the two human protagonists who can charm with words despite their lack of wings (these two have a purpose in the production traditionally fulfilled by the circus clown).

But Hunter is not just stacking words against body here – she also demonstrates what power the two have when combined. Her aerialists speak, though many of them are new to acting.

In fact, the coupling of circus and theatre in The Birds resonates within the whole concept of men and birds united. By the final scene the rulebook has truly been thrown out, and the chaos that takes its place as Pezza and his feathered flock limp from the stage is something that we secretly revel in. Let's hope that just as circus has penetrated now into one of this country's main theatrical institutions, The Birds will be able to adapt itself to the big top and go on tour as originally planned.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-3
p. 28