On the roof of multi-storey car park, two strangers collide. 20-year-old Anna (Kate Austen) wants to jump, but is stopped by a hapless security guard (David House). Owls surprises you with its honest humour and approach to its subject matter. However, this isn’t Anna’s story. Owls takes an intriguing route by having Anna instead cast the spotlight onto our security guard, Steve.
A play that is filled with small moments of wonder
Owls is a play that is filled with small moments of wonder. Running for 70 minutes, with no interval and only two scenes, it isn’t a play rammed with explosive drama and tear-jerking moments. Instead, the play finds itself in the relief of when two people on the edge can bring a smile out of each other. It is, perhaps most of all, a very human play. Both characters are filled with flaws. Steve isn’t the smartest guy; he struggles to find the words to help anyone and he is a nervous talker. He rambles about Brexit, phone games and his family just to fill the silence that frightens him as Anna stands on the precipice. Steve stumbles as he tries to find a way to inspire someone when he can’t really convince himself of the joy of life, but he has his moments, and it is this process where the play shines. Credit must be given to actor David House who does a tremendous job drawing out the nuances of his character. It is quite a refreshing approach to the subject matter and it finds a way to make its message clear.
The staging is simple, with only scattered litter to denote a rooftop and some basic lighting changes used for dream-like sequences. The play unfolds entirely on that rooftop and the ledge that is is the edge of the stage. The simplicity here works well and lets you focus on all the inflections and small movements made by House and Austen. The one issue may be that the climatic moment doesn’t seem to hit as hard it wants, but frankly it isn’t enough to detract from the charm and emotion that Owls carries just through its ordinary dialogue.
Powerful, charming and surprisingly funny when it almost has no right to be, Owls is well worth a watch if it comes to a theatre near you.