A tale of two crows, aimed at children aged 3-7 years, is the latest offering from Rochdale-based M6 Theatre Company.
Nest follows Birtle and Piper as they seek a new home in which to hatch their new brood of eggs. Piper, the mother, is the more practical of the two; Birtle more impetuous and attracted to the ‘things’ humans abandon.
The show opens with some clever shadow puppetry commenting on the felling of trees for housing and commercial development, leading into the critique of capitalism that threads through the play.
Piper’s ideal nest (designed by Joss Matzen) looks more like a habitat for people than birds – it has shelves, a curtain, a hatch, and a table they use to perch on.
Actors Cynthia Emeagi (Birtle) and Emily Spowage (Piper) use physical quirks to bring their avian characters to life: chirps, flaps, and black fans. They are a happy, loving pair, close in their routine, and curious about the world.
There’s a catchy song, and a lovely bit where Piper lays her eggs (in privacy, of course) before instantly becoming as protective of them as if they were the most fragile glass.
What I did miss in a performance aimed at this age group was the lack of any interaction with the audience. One child was constantly wondering aloud “what are they doing,” and it might have been nice to involve the viewers in the tale as it progressed.
Nest has a lot to say about the environment, not just about the removal of bird habitats but also the consumer drive to accumulate things we think we ‘need’.
Casting two women as the crows feels more of a decision based on their chemistry and skill rather than any comment on traditional families, but may spark some discussion with curious children closer to 7 than 3, or allow those with two mums (or dads) to see their lives represented.
Gilly Baskerfield’s play, which she also directs, gives the crows thoughts that mimic the humans around them, but also shows their very different view of the world from mimicking the sound of traffic below to collecting a plug on a lead as a pretend pet.
Image credit: Lewis Wileman