By Katherine Chandler
Directed by Rachel O’Riordan
Raw, delicate and bold. Bird is a story about growing up outside a family but inside the fiercest of friendships. Ava and Tash are up on a cliff. Looking out at the flocking birds. And at their future. On the cusp of adulthood and leaving the care home they’ve always known, the friends test their freedoms and practise living in the world. Ava confronts the mother she left behind. Tash looks for a home. And both girls live dangerously with the men who surround them.
Winner of a Judges award in the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, this is the World Premiere of BIRD a stunningly poetic new play by Welsh playwright Katherine Chandler and a co-production between two of the leading producing houses in the UK, Sherman Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre.
This story of unstoppable friendships is performed by a talented cast of performers from both Wales and Manchester, directed by Sherman Theatre’s Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan will premiere first in Cardiff from 13-28th May and then Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from 8 -25 June 2016.
Bird has been in the making for three years, its a play about family, friendship and loss. There are times of discomfort but there is humour and hope.
The talented cast includes Swansea actress Georgia Henshaw, who play’s the central character Ava. Georgia has appeared regularly in TV hits Banana & Cucumber on C4 and E4
Originally from Port Talbot, Rosie Sheeny play’s Ava’s best friend Tash. Rosie a RADA graduate comes back home for her first professional run in Wales.
The role of Ava’s mother is played by well known Siwan Morris who recently starred in Gary Owen’s prolific Violence and Sons at the Royal Court Theatre. She is often recognised for her role as Angie in Skins and regularly appears on BBC, S4C, ITV and C4.
Alongside them is the fresh talent of Cardiff local, Connor Allen who plays the role of Dan. This will be his first main role in a professional company.
I had the pleasure of a short interview with the writer of Bird, Katherine Chandler.
Katherine is a Welsh playwright and screenwriter. Her play Before It Rains won the Writers Guild Playwright award at the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards. Katherine also won the BBC and National Theatre Wales inaugural Wales Drama Award.
Q1. Bird premieres on May 13th, are you excited and why?
Extremely excited and absolutely terrified all at once. Opening your play is the most bizarre experience, I’m not sure how to explain it because the emotion is so different to anything else you go through. The rehearsal period can be very intense, particularly when you’re dealing with difficult subject matter and you and the company give everything you have to the work so you really do feel exposed when it’s first performed. The flip side of that is that when you believe in a piece of work, you also can’t wait to show it to an audience – it’s very complicated! Bird has been in the making for three years, so at the moment the overwhelming emotion is excitement to finally get it in front of an audience but even saying that has made me nervous…
Q2. What can the audience expect from Bird?
Well, it’s a play that deals with some tough issues so there might be some discomfort but also there is humour and hope. I think it’s a play about family, Dad’s and daughters and Grandads and Mum’s and friendship and loss. I have used a lot of my own memories in the play so it feels quite particular to this part of the world. The actors are outstanding so it’s a master-class in performance and the director and production team are bold and on it so it’s got a real attitude, which I love. I like to non-conform structurally so it’s not got an obvious beginning, middle and end and I was interested in using tones of expressionism and folklore. I think it’s interesting to try different ways in new work.
Q3. Katherine, you are one of Shermans resident playwrights. How long have you been writing for Sherman and what does the future hold.
My first play with Sherman was Before it Rains which went out in 2012 and this is my forth full play with them. I really believe in the Sherman, we need this theatre in our Capital city for all sorts of reasons and I love working with the company, I’ve always had a great time with them. I hope the Sherman and me have some exciting projects going forward but most importantly Rachel O’Riordan has some fantastic projects going forward with a range of Welsh playwrights.
Q4. You have won many awards, what is your greatest achievement in theatre to date?
Lots of things have been rewarding for different reasons. Having my first play performed in the Sherman, a Christmas show in Cardiff Castle for National Theatre Wales and the whole Chandler clan coming to watch it on Christmas Eve with flashing ties and Christmas hats, being part of National Theatre England’s Connections, working in Holloway prison with Clean Break. One of the most totally joyful parts of my work so far has to be sitting in with audiences of under seven’s watching the shows.
Probably the greatest achievement though is to get a play produced, it’s never a given that your work will get a performance so when you get the go ahead for production that feels really good.
Q5. Sherman 5 is a membership, designed to give people from Community First areas who have never attended a performance at the Sherman Theatre the chance to do so. How important do you think it is for the younger generation of today to attend and get involved with theatre?
I feel it’s important but I already attend and theatre is a big part of my life. I understand why it’s not important to a lot of people, none of my family really attend apart from a Christmas panto. A lot of theatre is expensive, boring, uncomfortable and excludes all sorts of people. A lot of it doesn’t speak to the people it wants to attract so who can blame them for not valuing the art form. I think people have generally found other ways of story telling that makes theatre less relevant and easier to ignore. I know what theatre has to offer because my life has benefited so much from it and I sincerely hope that younger people from backgrounds like mine continue to get the chance to get involved.
Q6. What advice would you give to any aspiring playwright?
Write honestly and truthfully and listen honestly and truthfully.
Finish the play.
Bird premieres on May 13th, more information can be found Here
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