Birdhouse (3 stars)

This article is from 2013


Birdhouse / Photo: Idil Sukan

A comedic take on Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds by physical theatre company Jammy Voo

In the half-light live four elderly women, old-fashioned spectacles casting shadows across their faces, birds’ eggs nestled in their hair and white splashes of bird excrement running down their shoulders. Around them are clumps of bird feathers and, in the popcorn booth, the vendor plays music to while away the days. Welcome to the Coronet cinema in Bodega Bay, California, where the other survivors of Hitchcock’s The Birds hide out.

Fans of Hitchcock’s methodically paced and reservedly thrilling style might be thrown by what they get here, however, because Birdhouse is largely a comedy experience, albeit one which cleverly uses settings and tropes from the film to enhance its own visual aesthetic. In one scene a doll’s house-sized mock-up of the film’s Brenner house is lit from within by a candle, as each of the women’s incorrectly answered birdwatching quiz questions causes more crows to gather on the power lines above. In another standout sequence, a brilliantly enacted car ride down the highway unfolds in shadowplay, telegraph poles whizzing past the windscreen.

The four women at the heart of the Devon-based Jammy Voo physical theatre troupe give a masterful ensemble performance here, mixing clowning, largely silent character sketch comedy and some affecting harmonies to musician Greg Hall’s reserved live score of winsome indie. There’s also some great, creepy bird puppetry at the end, but the sense does remain, despite the many things this show pulls off well, that fans of its inspiration might feel somewhat short-changed. The quintet nail Hitchcock’s visual aesthetic, but this play is something other than what might have been expected, an entirely narrative-free multiform calling card for their own breadth of abilities.

Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 25 Aug, 5.30pm, £12–£11 (£11–£10).


  • 3 stars

Jammy Voo. Meet four forgotten survivors of the infamous attack from Hitchcock's The Birds. After taking refuge in the Coronet Cinema, the women have been stuck there ever since, caught in a state of post-traumatic bird shock. With doomsday forever lurking just outside, can they now survive their own personal apocalypses?