Birdsong | The Gaiety Theatre
Star rating: 4 / 5
Review by: Philip Cummins
Venue: Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
Wrtitten by: Novel by Sebastian Faulks, Stage Version Rachel Wagstaff
Directed by: Alastair Whatley
Cast: Sarah Jayne Dunn from Drop Dead Gorgeous /Hollyoaks, Eastender’s star Charlie G. Hawkins and Arthur Bostrom from ‘Allo ‘Allo
Sebastian Faulks' 1993 novel WW1 novel Birdsong was ranked 13 in the BBC's The Big Read, survey to find Britain's most loved novel, just ten years after publication. The regard that Faulk’s masterpiece is held in is not just limited to readers; while critics have swooned over the novel, it has also been adapted for radio, for the stage and, perhaps most recently, for television. Set mainly during 1916 - 1918 at the Western Front in France, it quite wonderfully details the human cost and personal tragedies of ordinary men in an extraordinary situation.
Rachel Wagstaff's adaptation is brilliantly structured; each story and subplot is interwoven with great skill and narrative understanding. The apocalyptic and horrific nature of war is wonderfully illustrated by a deafening soundtrack and by haunting lights, which visualize air strikes with vividness. Death looms large, hanging over the production like a vulture. Upstage center a fence post appears to be planted in the ground like a cross. True, the first half is slightly longer than it should be, though this is to be expected from an adaptation from a novel that is over 400 pages in length.
There is, however, humor peppered throughout the production, but the jests and jokes never undermine the solemn tone of the setting and subject at hand. Indeed, since most of the action revolves around underground mines that were planted under the German trenches, the suspension throughout is generated organically; through the actors’ moments under the mines and in areas of the stage the audience cannot see.
The only place where the production is dulled is by the love affair between Wraysford (Jonathan Smith) and Isabelle (Sarah Jayne Dunn), which, though central to the narrative, never quite rings true and it is overshadowed by a brilliant ensemble cast; at times, the richness of the acting and the chemistry between all the actors reaches the heights a world class Shakespearean production, while moments between the actors, particularly those scenes between Tim Treloar who plays Jack Firebrace and the selected members of the cast with whom he has scenes. The monologues are also excellently delivered, bringing a stillness and elegiac weight to what is an otherwise busy and slick production.
Bound to be enjoyed by those who hold Faulk’s novel dear and who watch period dramas, such as Downton Abbey, Birdsong is a well - rounded, fluid production which reminds of the sacrifices and horrors imposed on men in war and the life or death choice made by those both who are in the trenches and those who are in love.
Birdsong runs in The Giety Theatre from 28th May - 1st June at 7.30. Tickets: €25 - €40. For more information go to www.gaietytheatre.ie
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Wednesday 29th May 2013 | Theatre