‘I TALK to the birds,” sings the eccentric Dr Doolittle – and in truth, many of us do. We talk to the cheeky robin who sits on the wall as we dig the vegetable patch and the blackbird who watches for the worms.
But Beth really talks to the bird who comes to live in her lonely cottage. Divorced, miserable, at odds with the world (and herself), Beth finds an injured crow. She Googles injured birds and is dismayed when the practical vet on the phone tells her to “put it out of its misery” when Wikipedia had suggested there might be a chance it would survive.
So she starts to feed the bird, which gradually trusts her, takes worms from her, drinks from the jar she puts out … and gets a name, Alfie. Over the ensuing months, Alfie and Beth become an odd couple, quite the talk of the rural village, where friendly Meg keeps trying to persuade Beth to come and give a talk in the village hall about keeping a pet crow.
But Beth is too damaged and hurt – her ex Matthew and his new partner are living in the same village and she can’t wait to sell the house that she and Matthew bought together and head back to the city, her natural habitat.
So what should she do with Alfie?
Hattie Naylor’s beautiful, lyrical and enchanting play is a story of friendship, communication, healing and love. It takes an unusual relationship (between a human being and a bird – a member of the remarkable, intelligent Corvid family, about which Beth becomes quite an expert) and it shows us some truths about ourselves, about our need to be needed and to let ourselves go into a new experience, to see where life takes us.
Natalia Campbell as Beth is brittle, painfully hurt and gradually finds a smile then a laugh and finally some joy – and hope.
Imelda Warren-Green as the young Beth, who was an award-winning folk singer, has a lovely voice with an unusual break that gives a poignant edge to her songs of love and loss.
And Tom Brownlee IS Alfie – whether wearing the beaked crow hood, or just his plain black clothes, he captures that special intelligent look of the crow, the way they move their heads with tiny jerky movements, watching you, listening … thinking. It is a mesmerising performance – I am sure we all left the Salberg Studio warmed by this funny and moving story (and maybe just a bit jealous of Beth and her crow!)