|Three Birds Lands at the Bush Theatre|
Penny Flood is gripped by the plight of three children left home alone
Three Birds takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster as it sharply observes how three children cope in their fraught lives over just a couple of days. It is a skilful mix of drama, comedy, mystery, horror and pathos.
Much of the humour is provided by Tanika (Susan Wokoma), with her child’s sense of excitement as she chatters constantly about her days at school, and her adored teacher Ms Jenkins. In perfectly capturing Tanika’s bubbling enthusiasm, Wokoma remains childish and childlike throughout, whether she’s accepting chocolate bribes, jumping about in fairy wings or dressing as Greek god Proteus (for whom she is writing a diary in which nothing happens, quipping he is the God of the Future).
The plot reveals itself gradually, with a few clues to some bizarre happenings. Why do they use the kitchen as a bathroom? Why are they selling Jackie’s clothes on eBay? What’s in Tionne’s parcels from Amazon? And why do they need so many dead chickens?
Janice Okoh’s script is sharply observed and infused with a sympathy and understanding for her characters’ predicaments, so that even at their most ridiculous or hurtful they are also shown to be vulnerable and full of spirit in the face of their awful situation. It is clear why the play was good enough won the 2011 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, although I feel in places Okoh seems to try too hard for laughs and slips too close to farce, when it is strong enough not to need either.
Three Birds continues at the Bush Theatre until Saturday April 20. Book tickets online or call the box office on 020 8743 5050.
March 26, 2013