The Hurly Burly is a solar powered festival venue that has arrived in Brighton for the Fringe Festival, bringing along its resident Theatre Company, which has been touring since 2007 and can be seen at notable festivals such as Glastonbury, Bestival and Shambala.
Birdy is a quirky and creative theatre experience that is unique in concept and flawless in its delivery. It is the epitome of quality pop up dinner theatre from its retro concept to its hip delivery. There is a local, familiar feel to the production, but the acting is world class. The dark fairytale tells a love story with a fresh approach that combines music, comedy, drama, and dining to create an experience that is extremely engaging and leaves its audience feeling inspired.
Oliver Harrison is the narrator of the story, Eugenio. His acting and accents are so convincing that it is impossible to guess his real nationality. He plays several other characters throughout the performance and is able to switch roles so quickly and effectively that the change is mesmerizing. As Eugenio, he falls in love with Birdy, Carla Espinoza who captivates audiences even though she doesn’t utter a word until much later in the show.
Birdy is supported by a musical trio who give her a voice through George Williams who plays the part of Lyric, Katie Grace Cooper who takes the role of Grace, and Philippa Hogg who plays Joy. Williams and Hogg are musically gifted on the guitar and violin and keep the audience entertained both on stage and in between acts with impromptu songs and spontaneous performances. Cooper steals the show with unrelenting slapstick comedy and catalogue of facial expressions without ever coming close to breaking character and Espinoza’s timing, physical comedy and expressive eyes perfectly complement the other actors.
The Hurly Burly Theatre Company and Circus Kinetica are clearly a tight knit group of actors and friends who are all sincerely gifted and deliver performances that can easily rival any show. Artistic Director Mella Faye Punchard has performed an incredible feat by transforming a patch of grass in the middle of the city into a unique space where anyone can come enjoy a drink in the sun next to the tent before the show.
Guests are greeted by the eccentric cast, beautifully costumed by Rosa Bloom, and ushered into the performance space where they are seated at tables next to a bus-cum-kitchen complete with waiting staff that look as if they have driven straight in from The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper tour. Once seated, the first of a gorgeous three course vegetarian meal is served giving the audience a chance to mingle with their neighbours and enjoy the musical and interactive performances while they dine.
Every seat has an unobstructed view of the stage and no one is safe from the performers wandering through the audience. They interact in a fun and entertaining way without embarrassing guests or making them feel uncomfortable. The bus becomes a second stage and every corner of the tent is well-used as performance space. The deliciously decadent dessert is served after the last act, once again giving the audience an opportunity to socialize and to discuss their impressions of the show.
Birdy is imaginative, authentic and absolutely impossible to fault. It is not only my favourite show of the Brighton Fringe Festival, but the most fun I’ve had at the theatre in a very long time. Watch out for Birdy and other productions by the talented Hurly Burly Theatre Company in Leicester Square and other festivals this summer.