Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Looking at an empty, upturned cathedral setting, with the scent of incense wafting around the room and quiet choral music playing in the background, I was unsure what to expect from Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. Solemnly, two men clad in robes entered the stage and began relating a brief history of the religious upheaval of Henry VIII, but we were soon to discover that this was not to be the beginning of a boring history lesson.

For the brothers, Adam and Steve a.k.a. David Brett and John Burrows, are in fact not your typical straight laced monks but between them have broken a vow of celibacy, harboured homosexual tendencies and been involved in a scheme to hide holy relics. Although sexual innuendo and ‘Carry On’ style scenes litter the script, this is not to say that there are not some more serious undertones acknowledging the difficulties of the 16th century for those in the church. Yet perhaps what is most interesting is the way in which this is conveyed: the piece is a two man extravaganza, in which the two actors ingeniously play a multitude of different characters all by themselves. While Adam and Steve act as narrators to a series of tales pitched around the dissolution of the church, Brett and Burrows switch effortlessly between different characterisations to enact the stories being narrated. By altering their gait, speech, mannerism and tone of voice, the two expertly embody each new character, whether it be a disgruntled member of Cromwell’s set, an abbot in peril, a deviant mistress or a randy husband. The two work together magnificently and although the character switching is complicated, they succeed in making it extremely understandable, something lesser actors would have failed miserably at.

While this was certainly impressive, the 90 minute length of the show did mean that the constant swapping grew tiresome at points and storylines that needn’t have been extended were dragged out well past their sell by date. Had this been a slightly shorter piece, no doubt the impact would have still been made but in a more pithy, engaging manner that would stopped any yawns from the late night crowd. Inventive scripting featuring talented performers with perhaps a bit too much time on their hands.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

The Blurb

Carry On meets Hilary Mantel in a bittersweet comedy about the dissolution of a monastery. Brother Adam and Brother Stephen fight a hilarious rearguard action against the onslaught of Henry VIII's Reformation.

Most Popular See More

Cinderella The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets