Birdwatchers’ Wives (3 stars)

This article is from 2014

Birdwatchers’ Wives

Despite much to like about the show, Caroline Smith’s avian alter-ego fails to take full flight

‘Welcome! Willkommen! Bienvenue!’ warbles Rita Grebe. Grebe is seven-foot tall, preening delicately and resplendent in a sumptuous costume of extravagant plumage (designed by David Curtis-Ring). This solo show from performance artist Caroline Smith takes all things avian and twists it through the testimonies of Rita: a self-identified ‘avian-therian’, or put simply a woman who thinks that she is a bird.

Caroline Smith’s Rita takes joy in teasing the assembled audience – her birdwatchers, as she calls them – and yet she is quick to reverse the process by sharing wit-soaked observations on our respective plumage.

Although there's much to like about Smith’s performance, her tone remains too measured throughout, making it difficult for much momentum to build before the finale of the show (the hotly anticipated avian talent contest, ‘BirdOrff’). This lack of energy is compounded by the appearance of exposition heavy video segments, which depict the media coverage of an ornithological scandal sub-plot.

Smith’s piece bristles with interesting concepts, yet each one is given only a fleeting appearance, a flaw made more glaring by the lack of forward momentum. Although there is an abundance of bird puns and a particularly gripping but fragmentary riff on a lunchbox straying into Rita’s eye-line, the performance struggles to take full flight.

Summerhall, 0845 874 30001, various dates until 24 Aug, 12.30pm, £12 (£10).

Birdwatchers’ Wives

  • 3 stars

Caroline Smith / Escalator East to Edinburgh Meet Rita Grebe, a seven-foot woman who thinks she’s a bird. The latest alter-ego of performance artist Caroline Smith, ‘deliciously dark’ (Guardian), ‘curiously cathartic’ (Times), was researched with British birdwatchers - and now Rita’s hell-bent on turning the archetype of…