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Edinburgh Blog: How a chance encounter grew into a 'mesmerising' show

Director Lee Hart explains the genesis of Today I Killed My Very First Bird

Today I Killed My Very First Bird
© Dom Moore

I'm sitting at the kitchen table, working through an ever growing 'to-do' list ahead of our Edinburgh Festival run in August. Very soon we will get into the rehearsal room to fan the flames once more on the project that has been quietly smouldering since its blistering preview showing in February at Theatre Royal Plymouth.

I Killed My Very First Bird is a powerful experience. It has been sculpted from the raw, tender, and unrelenting expression that writer and performer Jason Brownlee began to give life to in 2018, based on some of his lived experience of childhood trauma, violence, and addiction.

I first met Jason in 2015 when he began attending the Our Space project which I co-direct at TRP. The project supports adults in the community with multiple and complex needs, using the theatre-making process as a means to develop resilience, insight into our human experience, and creative tools for life. In a free-writing exercise one day (an unbroken stream of consciousness spilled out onto paper), a creative channel opened up for Jason, and parts of his life which had been locked away for a long time began to re-emerge in the form of an epic, rhyming poem. Over the following months, the words kept pouring out, typed into his phone whilst waiting at bus stops, drinking coffee, or just walking down the street. It wasn't until late 2017 though, that I heard what he had been writing.

During the interval of Yukio Ninagawa's Macbeth we found ourselves on the pavement outside the theatre passing time, smoking, and talking about the show. Another member of the Our Space group was with us, egging on Jason to deliver some of his poem. Jason relented and launched into a five-minute epic journey of a South East London gangster – the backstreet deals, the dysfunctional family, trusted associates, and the setting up of a big job. It was brooding, dark, funny, vivid, urgent, and in its rhyming form, relentless.

For those five minutes I was utterly transported – mesmerised with the powerful storytelling Jason had held me there with. A seed had been planted, and now, five years later, the cast has become five, the five minutes have become 55 and we are poised to share the work at the largest theatre festival in the world as Voodoo Monkeys. We'll see you there!

Today I Killed My Very First Bird is at the Pleasance Courtyard from the 3 to 29 August

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