Review: Peut-Etre Theatre in Draw Me a Bird at Arts Depot

Performance: 23 October 2011
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Thursday 27 October 2011

Peut-etre Theatre, 'Draw Me a Bird' 27-28 May, Rich Mix

It’s the stage that catches your eye first – a jumble of chimney stacks, washing lines and the trappings of Parisian bohemia, all set under a beautiful cloud-shaped lantern that tells us we are up in the sky among the rooftops. Beneath the cloud, four performers each sketch a bird; one will go on to hatch through her own creation and become the bird she draws. Draw Me a Bird is full of such magical moments, transformations enacted through sound, music and movement, loosely based on the poetry of Jacques Prévert.

The story begins with Maya Politaki’s chirruping swallow falling so in love with the songs performed by street musician Isabelle Cressy that she stays behind for the winter when the rest of her flock leave. Alone on the rooftop, Politaki finds herself cold and hungry in the chill winds of winter, but is fed and comforted by Cressy’s kind bird-lover and makes two new friends, a crow and a pigeon.

Sweet and accessible for children (Sunday’s audience averaged around 5-6 years old), Draw Me a Bird nevertheless has plenty of nuance. On one level, it’s a story about being kind to those in need, finding a friend and birds of different feathers flocking together. On another level, it’s about the power of art to captivate and about how our passions can even lead us astray (it’s lucky indeed the swallow finds someone to look after her when she doesn’t migrate).

On yet another level the show touches on the capacity of the imagination to create and bring things alive – Politaki seemingly begins life as a line drawing, one that she emerges through into the physical world. Such layers keep the adult audience as engaged as the children – who are clearly all enraptured by the dancers’ birdlike hops and Cressy’s charming folk singing.

Younger audience members also enjoyed moments of interactivity, such as a chance to feed the birds; the dancers skip out into the audience to collect prizes of real bread from outstretched hands, to the audible delight of the children. Draw Me a Bird is at its most successful when the musical and physical elements are completely integrated, with the birds dancing to Cressy’s live singing and accordion playing. Some scenes lacked this integration and lagged slightly as a result.

At about forty minutes in length, the show was just beginning to extend past the attention spans of the younger audience members; moments such as a little feeding duet between Cressy and Politaki and a finale in which Cressy’s dream of taking flight comes true with the help of some graceful acrobalance still had the power to silence a fidgety crowd, however.

A lively, beautifully-designed and gorgeously performed fable with plenty to charm both children and adults, Draw Me a Bird reminds us that children’s theatre can be accessible without being simplistic or unsophisticated .

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