Paul Capsis first impacted on me when he played the role of Johnny/Toula in the 1998 Anna Kokkinos film Head On. He won an AFI Award and a Film Critics Circle of Australia Award as best supporting actor for this performance; and the awards have just kept coming. Capsis is now a stage legend; a wonderful performer with a beautiful voice. There was at least one self-admitted Capsis tragic on opening night and I'm sure she was not alone.
Playwright Nikki Bloom (Tender, Land and Sea) created Little Bird especially for Capsis. Her writing is poetic in its simplicity and is beautifully complimented by the songs of Cameron Goodall (The Audreys) and Quentin Grant (When The Rain Stops Falling).
Capsis is Wren, a young man who sets out on a journey to find himself. Running from his parents' isolated cottage Wren travels through the dark woods to the threatening lights of the big city. There is many a nod to traditional fairy tales: young women with snow-white skin, red lips and golden hair; an enticing cottage in a dark forest; a woodcutter and his family of seven sons. Along the way Wren falls in and out of love, is trapped and escapes, each time discovering different aspects of his personality, all the while seeking to understand who he is and where he belongs in the world. Gender, identity and reality are revealed as fluid and ever-changing.
The live music, the set and the lighting are just right, never intrusive, always evocative; and then there is Capsis himself. He is a shapeshifter in body and voice. He moves with ease from one character into another and his vocal range is impressive. It allows him to perform a moving lullaby with mother and father singing to their child, and to be equally at home playing a full-on, Glam Rock star. His performance is energetic and totally engaging; you can't take your eyes off him.
This is theatre at its very best, entertaining and challenging. You are taken on a journey of self discovery, prodded into asking questions about who you are and about the society you live in. The experience leaves you energised and uplifted, drawing you back, again and again, to think about the performance, the ideas, the images, the songs, the emotions.
A totally satisfying production of the highest standard; a credit to all involved and a definite must see.
Arts Centre Melbourne presents a State Theatre Company SA production
Venue: Playhouse Theatre | Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 29 January – 4 February 2015
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au | 1300 182 183