Brought to the Camden Fringe by τ.έ.λ.ο.ς Productions and performed live at Theatro Technis, Enigma Birds was sent to me to review as a digital recording.
It’s a short but bizarre piece which models itself on film noir and psychological thriller styles. A lot of it takes place in semi- or total darkness, and it is certainly experimental in its construction.
Written and directed by Athena Lim Malamas (who also plays Tess, the understated femme fatale), there is a quaint atmosphere undercut by a moody piano accompaniment, and a lot of blackness I believe to be cloth which obscures a lot of the action.
The chronology jumps around so it is hard to connect with the twists and turns of the story – the “enigma” of the title, no doubt. Ray Calleja is the archetypal detective who desires the bad girl after too many smoky nights in stuffy offices or bleak bars.
One influence on Enigma Birds, according to Malamas, is Rashoman where the same incident is remembered in various ways, but there is more confusion than cohesion in what we see here.
There’s a bit of jazz, too, in the wandering troubadour, which adds a sense of place and atmosphere. The characters are broadly drawn and impenetrable; the plot a curiosity.
Across the forty minute running time, there are odd nuggets which feel as if they could blend to solve the mystery, but as a whole the effect on this audience member is one of detachment.
In the remaining cast (Sophie Karl, Hannah Turner, Jacqueline Johnson, Wesley Charles), the performances are generally fine and committed.
Enigma Birds is a tricky show to review from a tech rehearsal recording which misses some characters off the camera (understandable, given the size of the Theatro Technis stage).
However, the atmosphere works but I was at a loss as to the significance of Tess – victim, suspect, ghost? It is all very shadowy and disturbing: we are certainly in a world where bad things happen.
By the time we hear “I want to talk to you about what happened”, we don’t actually know whether there has been a murder in actuality, or whether we are watching something more sinister, an enigma of the mind.
Enigma Birds played as part of the Camden Fringe in August 2022.
** (and a half)