A hybrid show of music, storytelling, visuals, dance and aerial work, Bohemia Arts and Music’s Sparkly Bird is the story of a young woman’s last few months with depression. Kat Lee-Ryan has written a deeply personal and touching memorial to her sister, Suzanna Raine, who died from suicide in 2004.
Dancers Catherin Ben Abbes and Miz Wells bring the story of Suzanna to life: not just moments of grief and raw hopelessness, but also of joy, of engagement with the world. Focusing on the image of the body’s response to Lee-Ryan’s music and lyrics, the effect is uplifting, despite the ever-present sadness behind this show’s genesis.
We also have Simon Goodman’s spoken interludes which shape parts of the tale which cannot easily be communicated through other means; letters, details of medications, and so on. These counterpoint the melodies (which stand on their own as a sequence of sorrow and strength) in a supportive way.
Sparkly Bird is an unusual show, which takes the story of one family, two women, and makes it accessible to the rest of us. You don’t need to have been affected by grief, mental illness (specifically triggered in this instance by “the baby blues”), or suicide to feel empathy for the story.
What strikes me about this show is its sheer energy and compassion for its subject, never retreating into melancholia because, of course, no person is identified purely by their illness or manner of their death. In one number, Lee-Ryan even doubles up to take the dance floor herself to “keep her alive”.
This is one of the bravest, most positive, and original shows I’ve seen this year.
Fringe rating: *****
You can stream Sparkly Bird during the Brighton Fringe until 27 June. Book your (£5) ticket here.
For more on Kat Lee-Ryan and her band The Fabulous Red Diesel, go here.