In this age of super injunctions, the issue of privacy and what we actually know about celebrities and each other has renewed impetus. How do we really get to know someone? From their public image? From what we read or perhaps nowadays a radical approach – actually talking to them.
The Others by Paper Birds is based on an exchange of email surveys with three different women, an Iranian artist, a prisoner, and celebrity Heather Mills. Their responses form the backbone for an examination of identity and individuality. It is an intriguing concept; verbatim theatre is usually employed to tell a single narrative, but here the three lives form a non-linear narrative that, while featuring individual tales, gives a wider exposure to the subject.
Despite the wildly different circumstances of each woman, certain key traits permeate preconceptions and cultural stereotypes that each woman battles to overcome. It’s nothing radical but it is performed with flair. Combining fluid staging with movement and music, the piece seems almost cinematic, perhaps reflecting the multimedia age were we now feel everyone’s lives are public property.
Performers Kylie Walsh, Jemma McDonnel and Shani Erez, accompanied by musician Shane Durrant encourage us to reconsider what we really know about various groups of people. It could easily turn into preaching but the mix of movement and comedy makes it a light touch.
Some moments work better than others – the puncturing of a typical western view of Iranian women’s lives is powerfully, yet sensitively handled while the difficult task of covering Heather Mills’ infamous divorce manages to avoid taking sides.
Other sections though still need to work. An opening scene revolving around unseen and unheard offstage noises and interruptions threaten to send the audience down the wrong path of a mystery thriller and it takes a few minutes to get back on track.
The simple yet inventive staging and engaging subject matter though overcome these initial problems and the end result is a thought provoking examination of identity and preconception.