Stupid Fucking Bird | Lightning Jar TheatreLeft – Michael Mack and Carla Bonner. Cover – Hannah Greenwood and Dylan Watson. Photos – Sarah Walker

What you are about to read is not a review, as such; it's a new form of review. After all, a review is a review is a review... why not play with the form? See a play, then write a review? How last century! I'm seeing the play tomorrow and writing a kind of previewreview now. This should be interesting...

Okay, so really, I saw this debut production by Lightning Jar Theatre several days ago. In short, I enjoyed it so much that I had planned to see it again before writing a review, but the week got away on me so I'm writing this now with the intention of seeing it again tomorrow. I just also accidentally read the script, and the bare words on the page... wow. Good fucking writing.

Stupid Fucking Bird is a play by Oregon-based playwright Aaron Posner. It's billed as a “sort of” adaptation of The Seagull by Chekhov. But if you're the kind of person who is put off by classics written by long-dead Russian playwrights – don't be put off by this detail. In fact forget I even mentioned it. It's just really good, contemporary theatre about a bunch of angst-riddled characters caught up in a web of unrequited love. And if you're the kind of person who is put off by plays about bunches of angst-riddled characters caught up in webs of unrequited love, don't be put off by this. Because although it is unquestionably a drama, there is much comedy and lots to think about. My short attention span and lousy time management steer me toward short plays, but this was over two hours (not all that long, I know, but that's how slack I am) of well rounded, absorbing, thought-provoking, very entertaining theatre.

The only exposure I've had to the dead fucking Russian connected with Stupid Fucking Bird is a Belvoir Street production of The Seagull a million years ago that featured, I think, Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Noah Fucking Taylor. The former two stood out for all the right reasons. Noah Taylor also stood out but for different reasons. I don't know the original text well at all but still thoroughly enjoyed this sort-of adaptation.

There's a mother who's a well known actor, her son who's a struggling (in many ways) playwright, an aspiring actress, a successful novelist and short story writer, an aging doctor and a couple of other friends all thrown together initially to witness/take part in “A Site Specific Performance Event.” Yes, it's a knowing and funny dig at The Theatre, but it's so much more than that. On the unrequited love angle... it's not as simple as a love triangle, it's more like an unrequited love conga line. Almost all of the characters are in love with someone who is in love (or lust) with someone else. Said like that, things could become annoying or frustrating, but there is so much going on that it never becomes either of these things. Quite the opposite. These are complex characters, yearning for love and success in their various and elusive forms, and although these are clearly, self-aware, fictional characters created for The Theatre, they are deftly drawn ones with subtlety of detail that makes them feel very real. They are in a fiction, but they are us. Struggling, yearning, fucked-up us.

The play occasionally breaks the fourth wall, and the audience shouldn't be afraid to go with this. It also adds layers of entertainment to an already fun stage play. It's a standard device for actors to make direct eye contact with audience members, making live theatre the very real thing that it is, but that device is taken a step further here, and yeah, go with it.

The director, Peter Blackburn, and the entire ensemble cast and crew must be pretty happy with this production. The play has been doing well in the USA and it really needs quality actors and direction to do it justice. Lightning Jar have delivered the goods.

So much so that I'm going to see it again. And I'm going to check out the Chekhov version because no doubt that will add to an already rich experience. You really don't need to know the original text to enjoy this. You will love Stupid Fucking Bird. Just don't be surprised if Stupid Fucking Bird doesn't love you back.


Lightning Jar Theatre presents
Stupid Fucking Bird
by Aaron Posner | based on Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull

Director Peter Blackburn

Venue: Mechanics Institute | 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC
Dates: 8 – 26 February 2017
Tickets: $35 – $28
Bookings: metanoiatheatre.com