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Stupid ******* Bird - Metanoia Theatre

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by Donna Sue Robson (subscribe)
Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Jamie Natural Health and Healing is her energy-healing consultancy. Her modalities, workshops and boutique natural products can be viewed and purchased from www.jamienatural.com.
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Adaptation of Chekhov's classic is a real hit
Stupid Fucking Bird Lightning Jar Theatre Aaron Posner Anton Chekhov The Seagull Mechanics Institute Peter Blackburn
Stupid F**king Bird is a hilarious, authentic and flexible adaptation of the Chekhov classic, The Seagull. With inbuilt flexibility, Aaron Posner's script gives universal themes of unrequited love, failure and creative opposition, a modern context. Pic: Producers and actors Hannah Greenwood (Mash) and Dylan Watson (Dev).


Stupid F**king Bird is a tight and clever adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic, The Seagull, and was chosen to launch Melbourne's Lightning Jar Theatre Company. Playing at the Mechanics Institute in Brunswick, Stupid F**king Bird is an interactive satirical look at the theatre-arts world, laced with real-life tales of unrequited love, coloured with character snap shots and family slide-shows as life unfolds to be disappointing- or often times- even dismal. It avoids dark undertones thanks to punchy direction, characters who balance light and shade and witty, honest dialogue that fuses Russian melodramatic directness with the modern tongue.

I loved this production. As with all high-quality scripts, Stupid F**king Bird was compelling from the word 'Go'. It quickly set-up multi-layered tension: across generations, family, love interests and ideological debate so that it was anyone's guess which character and house-of-cards would first crumble. Any one of the characters could have fallen- and hard, suddenly- or faded out, over time. There were spiral build-ups that simply created more spirals that seemed irreconcilable, which maybe, is just how life works.

Stupid F**king Bird is essentially character driven. The actual plot, though dramatic, is not the real point: it is about how our lives are defined by the quality of our relationships and our ability to make honest choices that reflect who we are.

Aaron Posner's sensitively crafted script layers crescendos that create cacophonies, forever dissected with thoughtful reflection and audience deflection: all opinions and feelings are shared and aired as 'life' and 'purpose' are considered and then reconsidered. Character development is a credit to the writer and director, and this experienced actor ensemble play-off each other to create a believable and passionate group drama. Choices are made, deferred or twisted by fate: characters develop, die and even drop-off the grid.

A young Polish woman turned to me and said with Baltic dryness- 'it is so Russian: it is 'Toska!'

Yes, 'Toska' which I am told, has no real English translation.

I looked it up: 'At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for a yearning. In particular cases, it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, a love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.' (Vladimir Nabokov)

The Polish woman explained: 'Toska' is life- it happens, we exclaim it for 'what it is', throw down a drink and then get on with it'.

Stupid F**king Bird is full of 'Toska' moments as each character exhibits their own version of bleakness that they try to reconcile. Chekhov wrote The Seagull almost 100 years ago and life in Russia was bleak. Even though The Seagull boldly declares this 'state of being' as reality, it is a play driven by undeniable romanticism that explores the artist's commitment to making the world a better place.

Stupid Fucking Bird Lightning Jar Theatre Aaron Posner Anton Chekhov The Seagull Mechanics Institute Peter Blackburn
Stupid F**king Bird brings together a talented and experienced cast who worked off each other and the audience, as if they had been born and bred for the part. Producers Tilly Legge, Hannah Greenwood and Dylan Watson and Director Peter Blackburn clearly lead with creative passion and collaborative flair. Pic: Nathan Sapsford (Trig), Carla Bonner (Emma), David Ross Paterson (Sorn), Dylan Watson (Dev) and Hannah Greenwood (Mash).


Aside from mismatched personal relationships and love interests, Stupid F**king Bird is about the world of theatre as mother and son battle each other, and bare conflict over artistry and ideology. Director Peter Blackburn notes: 'There's a particular charm and exquisite twist of the knife that happens when a consummate artist turns the powerful gaze of analysis toward his own craft and affectionately skewers its notorious elements. Never have so many familiar tropes about life in the theatre and the predicament of the tortured artist been treated with such comical sympathy and tragic sincerity'.

Peter Blackburn, whose directing and teaching experience includes posts in Sydney and UK as well as the famed 16th Street Actors Studio and VCA, is himself acclaimed by Lightning Jar producers as 'a brilliant interpreter of Chekhov'. Blackburn's insights, knowledge and sensitivity has clearly inspired the cast who have rewarded him their very best.

Stupid F**king Bird asks questions of art that are equally as relevant today as Melbourne theatre audiences search for meaning and even dissent. This adaptation has flexibility that is usually associated with improvised theatre rather than the classic traditions. Co-producer Dylan Watson explains: 'there are areas in the script marked with the word, 'loose', which gave us freedom to ad lib, improvise or invite audience contribution through narrative.' The result is that even within this 'sort-of Chekhov adaptation' there are references to Trump and Malcolm Turnbull. 'Adaptation' a sense of living theatre that continues to evolve.

Stupid F**king Bird's narrative-style is an unexpected layer. It turns the audience into 'observer, protagonist and participant' as Stupid Fu**ing Bird is revealed as 'a play within a play with a talk-back twist'. It's an effective way to allow audiences to better reflect on and to observe their own lives. It is a technique that is both clever and risky, as Lightning Jar attracts hetero-demographic audiences. Diverse reactions and interpretations play back onto the characters that only skilful actors can use to full advantage. The Lightning Jar cast exudes talent and under their watch, Chekhov's characters quickly become multi-dimensional. Lightning Jar has a mandate to 'create theatre that makes you feel, makes you forget, makes you shift uncomfortably in your seat (and) makes you laugh': the premier production of Stupid F**king Bird achieves these aims.

All actors in this program should be acclaimed, but two performances were outstanding in terms of sheer entertainment-value: Dev, played by Dylan Watson and Sorn portrayed by David Ross Paterson. David Ross, who has a wealth of Australian and international theatre credits to his name, (The Odd Couple, Saving Mr Banks and Sanctuary) really brought out the hidden complexity of Sorn, an aging, single 'good guy' who could have easily flown under the radar. Dylan's character added 'light-hearted ordinariness' and almost became the play's singular success story, raising the question of 'What is a successful life?'

The classic, dramatic scriptwriting of Chekhov makes this play gripping and timeless. Its structural integrity was upheld and yet Posner imposed modern twists in theme, characterisation, interpretation and stylistic choices. Nothing was lost- and new generations are lured to experience theatre farce and frivolity at its best. Producer Tilly Legge said as we exited the Institute: 'I think theatre should be entertaining and fun' another box ticked.

Stupid Fucking Bird Lightning Jar Theatre Aaron Posner Anton Chekhov The Seagull Mechanics Institute Peter Blackburn
Michael Mack (Con) and Carla Bonner (Emma) lead this talented and devoted cast. Great acting and dialogue kept the audience guessing, laughing and involved.


I am excited to see what Lightning Jar Theatre have planned for 2017. The selection of Stupid F**king Bird shows great judgement. Their ability to bring together a cast and crew with well-rounded, artistic pedigrees also pronounces this company as a well-positioned, driven and visionary force. I congratulate Lightning Jar Theatre on their first production of Stupid F**king Bird and highly recommend the show- it really is sensational and a sign of great things to come.

Stupid Fucking Bird Lightning Jar Theatre Aaron Posner Anton Chekhov The Seagull Mechanics Institute Peter Blackburn
Stupid F**king Bird is playing at the Mechanics Institute until February 26th. Opening night, was abuzz- Melbourne's theatre-savvy crowd proudly supporting the launch of Lightning Jar Theatre. Expect more great work from this new independent theatre company in 2017.
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*Donna Sue Robson was invited as a guest
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Why? Bookings from event page
When: Wed-Sat 7.30pm and Sundays 6.30pm
Where: Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Cost: Full price $35 and concession $28
Your Comment
Great article! Sounds like a great adaption
by Jay Johnson (score: 3|1368) 974 days ago
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