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Three Birds by Janice Okoh – Review

The play follows three siblings, Tianna, Tionne and Tanika as they play house in the absence of their mother. The eldest Tianna has to deal with growing up and becoming the head of the household whilst Tionne is dealing with it all in his own way through mysterious and disturbing experiments, meanwhile Tanika, the youngest, is trying her best to understand and keep hold of childhood.     This play comes from Janice Okoh and is the product of 2011’s Bruntwood Prize for playwriting.It was performed at The Royal Exchange in Manchester this year and has then went on to London’s Bush Theatre. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the play performed, but I have read the script after a few recommendations.

The script itself is brilliant, and refreshing. I tend to be attracted to the dark imagery of the macabre and this script, set along side a familiar home setting is a perfect juxtaposition. The situation the children find them in 

escalates to unbelievable proportions, and Okoh has shown her talent by making it believable. Each character functions on their own in the play and as part of the cast and the detail of the play. This play works well with the cogs of theatre by enticing the audience /  reader into itself and enveloping them thoroughly into it’s world.     Of particular note is the reveal at the end, which makes you want to re-read the play to look for clue’s to the ending. The imagery builds upon itself to prepare the audience for the ending in a way here you half expect it, but being confronted with the macabre and bizarre is still disjointing. The layering of the script is particularly interesting, especially the small tear in these layers, as seen with the introduction of Mr. Mistoffelees the hand puppet. The true childish nature of these characters can be missed as they present themselves, particularly Tianna, as grown-up’s but in these slips the reality of their ages and their circumstance is very daunting. A word on the Bruntwood: this is obviously the quality of work that is being submitted to the prize and The Royal Exchange the product of quality to give something extra to these scripts. It is definitely a prize that carries a reputation for the winner and brings in new imagination to the theatre itself.

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