Zugunruhe (3 stars)

This article is from 2018


Follow the bird across the world

This charming hour of physical theatre eloquently evokes the adventures of a tiny bird as it follows its migration pattern across the world, from the UK to Africa. The marsh warbler's ability to mimic the calls of the many birds that it encounters on this journey becomes a gentle symbol for the migrations of humans, and how the experience of travelling across the nations can be recorded in the way that a bird expresses itself - a storyteller by virtue of absorbing sounds.

Performer and creator Tom Bailey vacillates between anthropomorphic description of the warbler and attempts to understand its non-human world-view, and the soundscape integrates the processes that encouraged his approaches - including the voice of a charming young person who berates him for his unscientific depiction of flight.

The structure becomes repetitious as the warbler's locations and influences are listed, and despite some nifty props, the focus on a single performer's movement does limit the tension: moments of drama (such as the habit of shooting birds as they migrate) are understated. Bailey has a charismatic presence, and the warbler is realised as a cute and determined character, bringing the world in its wake.

A subtle plea for respect for migration - placing it as natural rather than forced - and a gentle study of the wonder of nature, Zugunruhe is a modest and warm example of physical theatre's ability to educate and entertain.

ZOO Southside (Studio), until 26 August (not 15), 1.45pm, £10 (£9).


  • 3 stars

MECHANIMAL Zugunruhe (zoo-gun-rue): an ornithology term for ‘migratory restlessness in birds’. This show explores the incredible flight of a marsh warbler, the world’s only bird whose song echoes its migration route. Body-compasses, magnetic fields, African sunsets, star-chasing, storm-riding, homing… Zugunruhe offers a…