Birds of Passage in the Half Light by Kat Woods

Aug 19 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Harrowing

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14): Tues 16 – Mon 29 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Birds of Passage in the Half Light, a one-hander by Kat Woods and performed by Fiona McGeown, deals with trauma and darkness. The presentation is uneven at times, but it draws the audience in.

From Belfast-based Tinderbox, the play tells the story of the oppression of women and girls in Ireland across the generations, and the complicity (and, indeed, the active role) of the Church.

Fiona McGeown in Birds of Passage in the Half Light. Pic: Carrie Davenport

An unnamed central figure’s experiences of sexism ranging from name-calling to assault are interspersed with the stories of her family, and wider narratives from history.

The stories that are told – the forced adoptions, the trafficking, the bans on contraception and abortion, the dead children at the Tuam Mother and Baby home and elsewhere – demand to be told, and are done so unflinchingly. However, there is at times a necessary didacticism that sits at odds with the darkly comedic ‘Mother Earth’ figure relating this part of the story.

Woods’s script is full of touches of anger, pathos and hard-won beauty, however, and is realised by McGeown with flair and determination.

Visually striking

There are also some problems with the technical side of the production. The audio-visual elements are not always cooperative. At times, McGeown uses a microphone, but not at others. The opening of the show, performed behind a curtain, is a touch garbled and not readily audible – which is probably intentional, but certainly frustrates.

Visually, however, the show is striking, with Tracey Lindsey’s dark, shrouded set and Mary Tumelty’s sepulchral lighting particularly impressive. Fergus Wachala-Kelly’s animations and Isaac Kelly’s sound design, despite their occasionally recalcitrant nature, are also commendable.

The whole production speaks a little of being just stuffed too full, both technically and in subject matter, to squeeze into one of those one-hour slots at a multi-stage, multi-show venue. Given a little more room to breathe, it would surely impress even more.

As it is, the harrowing narratives, and the tentative hope they lead to, compel in their own right despite the glitches.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Dining Room) , Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ (Venue 14)
Tuesday 16 – Monday 29 August 2022
Daily (not 22) at 13:00
Information and tickets: Book here.

Company website:
Instagram: @tinderboxtheatreco
Facebook: @tinderboxtheatre
Twitter: @tinderboxNI


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