Birdcage Factory was the event chosen to open the Granada’s first full performance season. Rich and off-beat simultaneously, it presented acrobatics, dance and music in a very strange and slightly unsettling scene.
The curtain rose on a circa-1942 “factory” with dispirited workers going about what were obviously mundane, robotic tasks. The mood changed when a bird flew into the factory, and the fun began.
The performers were veterans of the storied Cirque de Soleil, so there was acrobatic talent to spare. And acrobats make pretty good dancers, as well.
The bird is a symbol of freedom, and this one was slightly injured by steam escaping from one of the factory’s boilers. The workers began to take care of the bird, and abandoned their job of creating some sort of generic widget. They undertook to build a birdcage instead, with lots of joyful choreography to accompany it.
Chris Lashua, who polished his technical stagecraft with Cirque de Soleil, created Birdcage and remains its artistic engine. The show was first presented in San Francisco four years ago.
The factory scenery is based on Mexican painter Diego Rivera‘s monumental art depicting working men and women in mechanized settings. And another slightly Marxist note is struck with the factory Boss, an authoritarian figure in a Hamburg, brandishing a rolled-up umbrella and a briefcase.
The clatter and clang, and the relentlessly 1940s ambience, could begin to wear on viewers, but the tone of the piece is cheerful and upbeat. The boss gets taken down a peg, one of the workers dons his Hamburg and takes his umbrella, and everybody continues to dance, glide and tumble.
There is clever interplay between the boss and the worker who takes his hat, and nobody seems to be in too revolutionary a mood.
The show is something of an anomaly, hitting town for one night and then going away. It was interesting to see, and offered a measure of good-natured fun. Surely it’s bound to hang around for a while, playing in other venues. All the work and artistry that have gone into it would be a shame to waste on a one-night stand.
Noozhawk contributor Margo Kline can be reached at email@example.com.