Today I Killed My Very First Bird

Today I Killed My Very First Bird, a piece of new writing by poet, playwright and performer Jason Brownlee and directed by Lee Hart, is a strange beast. Based on Brownlee's own lived experience the five performers invoke the seedy underworld of South London gangsters, drug dealers and the people around them being destroyed by addiction.

Too often feels like a nursery rhyme directed by Guy Ritchie

There's no denying that the performers all do a very good job of breathing life into the diverse cast of characters they are given (a particular stand-out is Amber L. Jacobs who has the plays most affecting monologue listing various sordid sexual encounters, with varying degrees of consent, her character has experienced) but unfortunately the characters still never feel like more than stereotypes, like characters in a gangsters movie from the early aughts.

The piece is devised from a poem by Brownlee and is all in verse. A lyrical, poetic exploration of a bad man's path to (sort-of) redemption sounds like a fresh, interesting way to approach this well worn subject matter but with its dated references and often simplistic rhymes, Today I Killed My Very First Bird too often feels like a nursery rhyme directed by Guy Ritchie. But hey, maybe that's your thing!

The decision to keep the text in verse also serves to create a distance between the play and the audience. It's hard to connect with characters and their very real struggles when the way they tell us about them feels so disconnected to reality. Which is a shame because there are some good performances and interesting characters to be found here.

The simple staging serves its Fringe constraints well: the performers sit at a long table, with drugs and money strewn about and five lamps in front of each performer that they turn on and off when needed like mini-spotlights. At times very effective, the staging does however start to grate as the play goes on and mostly serves to turn the spotlight on the text itself which doesn't really stand up to the harsh light.

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Reviews by Ashleigh Torva

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Today I Killed My Very First Bird

★★
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The Blurb

A South-East London gangster starts to lose his grip on reality when he's forced to look back at the traumatic childhood that made him who he is. The more he remembers, the more brutal he becomes. But just when he's offered a second chance, it might all be too late. This pacey, powerful and heartbreakingly authentic exploration of hope and despair combines immersive sound and bold storytelling to create a vivid and visceral theatrical experience. Theatre Royal Plymouth co-produce an unflinching, relentless and stomach-churning new play based on lived experience.

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