Review: Parakeet (Roundabout Summerhall, Edinburgh)
Brigitte Aphrodite and Quiet Boy present a lovable and relevant piece of gig theatre
There seems to be an avian theme to the gig theatre shows in the Roundabout at the Fringe this year, with Boundless Theatre and Boom Shakalaka's Parakeet running alongside Middle Child and Daniel Ward's Canary and the Crow. If the latter is the sweaty, anarchic and bombastic of the duo, then there's something endearingly lo-fi about Parakeet, written by Brigitte Aphrodite with music by Quiet Boy (the pair appear on stage throughout, dressed as the green birds and playing along to the action).
The piece follows a young Margate-based tween, unceremoniously called Girl, trying to grapple with the consequences of coming out to an unresponsive family. She befriends two punk-tastic young rebels and hangs out at her favourite tree (which is scheduled for demolishment) where a flock of the titular kaleidoscopic birds make their home. Issues of gender, identity, race, immigration, climate change and more come and go across the hour-long runtime.
While it has laughs aplenty, Aphrodite's script is a slender, threadbare thing that packs in a whole lot more charm than substance – characters often feel more like ciphers for their various problems rather than fully formed individuals. It's helped to a large extent by the performances of the three teenage friends: Lula Mebrahtu, Isabel Oliver and Michelle Tiwo, who have bags of fun popping in and out of the audience with a typically teenage freneticism. Alex Noble's costumes – garish, grungy and all shades of green, truly give the show a unique aesthetic (even more impressive at a festival that thrives on its eccentricity).
It's a story chock full of pertinent, relevant themes, pitched squarely at an audience most likely to engage with them. Quiet Boy's music is fun but slightly forgettable, save for the last number which could have benefited from a couple more choruses. But from time to time, Parakeet has note-perfect plumage – a nice presence in the Roundabout space.