Man Covets Bird – Festival

Man Covets Bird Nathan OKeefe Festival 2010Space Theatre, Festival Centre
Wednesday March 3rd 2010 (See Festival Guide for dates, times, etc.)

Presented by The Adelaide Festival in association with Slingsby and the inSPACE Programme.

Bookings: BASS outlets 131 246 or

In its short life, Slingsby has quickly become accustomed to success. The company’s first work, The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, was a winner with audiences and critics alike, right from the start, and has since travelled around the world, to continuing rave reviews. Their second production, Wolf, has toured regional towns in South Australia. This latest work looks set to have a similarly rosy future ahead of it.

From Andy Packer’s original concept Finegan Kruckemeyer wrote the script and then it was passed back to Packer to direct the work. Quentin Grant was enlisted to compose the music and he, with Steve Lennox and Gareth Chin provide live accompaniment as Nathan O’Keefe tells the story. Geoff Cobham came up with the original design concept, with Wendy Todd doing the detailed design and Dave Green realising the lighting design. The People’s Republic of Animation created the visual images that are projected onto a large screen at the rear of the stage.

All that, however, gives no indication of what a beautifully uplifting and thoroughly engaging production this is. The floor of The Space has been covered in real turf, with a rotunda prominently at centre stage and chairs and benches placed around, as though set up ready for a brass band concert in the park. Younger audience members happily sat on the grass near the front, close to the action. The musicians played throughout the performance, sometimes from the stage but occasionally strolling around the grassed area. They provided background music as well as illuminating the story with songs.

Nathan O’Keefe then weaved a delightful tale of a boy who wakes up one day to find that he is older, a ‘nearly-man’, and a stranger to his parents. He finds a small bird that cannot fly and befriends it, putting into the inside pocket of his jacket, where it is warm and safe. Together they travel to the city to find a new life. He finds himself in a soul destroying, repetitive job in a factory where many people work on one huge machine, each responding to their own signal by taking the same action, over and over. He attempts to communicate with those near him, but is ignored and rejected. He constructs a way of listening to the song of his bird when he is at work. Eventually he shares that song with others, irrevocably changing their dreary lives forever. Finally, he can return home and the bird, having grown, can fly free.

The first thing that strikes the audience is the total immersion one feels in this performance because of the physical collocation within the man’s world, created through the extremely clever and evocative set design, to which the lighting and animations add a great deal. The music suits the production impeccably, enhancing the atmosphere of this gentle and moving narrative. Then there is Nathan O’Keefe in what must be his finest performance so far. He completely captivates the audience, the younger member hanging on his every word, enthralled by his impeccable sense of timing and immense skills as a storyteller.

This is a production of which all concerned can be justifiably proud. This is definitely one to take the entire family to see.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Glam Adelaide Arts Editor.

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