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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Friday, February 05, 2010

Birds and Other Things I Am Afraid Of, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Birds and Other Things I Am Afraid Of
Lansdowne Parish Church, Glasgow
3 out of 5

A site-specific show in a 19th-century church offers lots of ­tantalising possibilities: all those empty pews, echoing galleries and haunted corners. They are not, ­however, ­possibilities that concern Lynda ­Radley, whose one-woman show for Poorboy and the Arches takes place ­almost ­exclusively in a wooden shed ­constructed on the Lansdowne's altar.

After a preamble, in which we get a brief glimpse of a congregation of framed sepia portraits fading into the gloom, she leads the 12-strong audience into the shed, which doubles as the secret junk room in the family home of one Alice Macleod. There are shelves of glass jars, a filing cabinet laden with laundry, boxes of family photographs and an old cassette player – all loaded with clues to a half-remembered past.

The story she tells is as small-scale as the room. On the cusp of ­adulthood and independence, Alice yearns to ­connect with the mother whose funeral she was forbidden to attend as a little girl. With the cautious help of her ­librarian boyfriend, she ­rummages through the mementoes like a ­detective. If she can come to terms with her past, she will have the strength to fly the nest, like the birds that flutter in and out of the story.

It is minor, coming-of-age stuff, but Radley captures the sense of a self-absorbed only child; her sweetly voiced performance has a quirky charm that's enhanced by Sandy Thomson's ­inventive direction. The emotional ­terrain is gentle, however, and the story more particular than universal. That is why the beautiful closing image – in which she releases a balloon up into the church ceiling, as she finally lets go of her childhood – does not resonate with the grandeur the setting deserves.

© Mark Fisher 2010


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