It’s an often demanding world that we humans live in, with advertising, television and a host of other media constantly pushing ideas at us; what we should be like, what we should have and what we need to keep up with the Joneses. And why not have all the latest stuff? Everyone else seems to! Why not indeed… Nest is a charming story about two crows looking for the right home where they can live together happily and bring up their young, but who nearly lose what’s genuinely precious by behaving like humans.
The show starts with a little bit of shadow puppetry that describes the setting, reminding us how in order to make space for our homes the environment often suffers, as trees are chopped down and replaced with buildings. Our crows Piper (Emily Spowage) and Birtle (Cynthia Emeagi) have struggled to find a nest that’s in a tree rather than a pipe or a rooftop, but once they’ve found one they set about making it special. Soon however the weight of consumerism causes their fragile home to become endangered.
It’s really nice to see a production that’s a completely new piece of writing, rather than a book adaptation. It’s clear that M6 have invested a lot of thought into their show. The crows’ costumes are beautifully made and imaginative; a flick of a fan suggestive of their wings, and blue waistcoats hinting at feathers. Moments of shadow puppetry cleverly offer texture and scale, whilst the set has surprising little features that add interest and cause the small spectators to giggle. The performance is aimed at a young audience from ages 5-7, and the script is not too wordy or overcomplicated for them. Indeed, early on the children delight mostly in the two actors’ splendid physical performances, which are clownish and funny, including great Vaudevillian duets with some original songs. The pair have excellent chemistry and initially really keep the youngsters onside.
The pace flags a little later, as Birtle starts bringing home peculiar objects, copied from neighbouring humans, and underscoring the idea that owning masses of ‘stuff’ is not only unnecessary but possibly dangerous to the environment. The action becomes somewhat drawn out and then there’s little sense of peril when the nest starts to break, marked really with only some creaking sounds and a bit of movement. The use of set and props doesn’t add enough to suggest extreme crisis either, although the disposal of oversized objects is amusing – particularly for those at the front within striking distance. The resolution at the end is a little half-hearted with the eggs not visibly producing anything. It might have been nice to pursue the idea of puppetry, out of which they arrive initially, to give us some cute babies and positivity to ‘aww’ at come the conclusion.
All in all, however, this is a gentle and well-executed show that, if not entirely pacey, is a pleasant hour to spend. The political points aren’t overwhelming and discreetly open up questions to go home with about what a family and a home look like, what we waste, what we need and how and why we might want to protect our environment: and that’s a positive place for any family to roost post-show.
Written and produced by: M6 Productions
Nest is aimed at ages 5-7 and runs at Polka Theatre until 15 October. Further information and bookings can be found here.