Zoe Kramer reviews Stone the Crows, a Winterlight production made in association with Company of Sirens from writer Tim Rhys.
Despite being the definitive crisis of our time, environmental themes have not occupied the primary position in the theatre world in recent years. It’s easy enough to understand this, of course: it’s a complex and heavy topic, one that often takes a thorny road towards nihilism. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit of fun instead. However, even if the climate crisis hasn’t taken centre stage – pun intended – it still makes up a significant body of work. Amongst this tradition of cataloguing the harrowing destruction of nature by man, Stone the Crows stands out as a story where nature fights back.
Chris Durnall’s staging of the show is perhaps what is first notable; a black box theatre with leaves, sticks and soil in the centre is unembellished yet effective as a setting. The space is incredibly — almost disarmingly — intimate; with only two rows of seats on either side, and the actors able to look you dead in the eye, the audience has no choice but to be immersed in the story as it is told. From this pile of twigs and leaves emerges Crow, springing into action to build an altar from their surroundings. As Crow slowly allows us into their world, we see someone who is damaged yet almost childlike in their eagerness to recount their tale, and in the earnestness of their beliefs. Crow is from a Traveller background, but when their world collides with Tucker’s, the seeds of discord are sown. Boo Golding brings a warmth and vibrancy to the role, which makes it all the harder to watch when things go wrong.
Tucker, our second character, at first glance appears to embody a trope many city dwellers will resonate with: a businessman who dreams of escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to take refuge in the quiet of the countryside. However, his shot at a new life goes sour when he begins to find that the violence in the possessive and consumerist world he sought to escape lives on within him. Oliver Morgan Thomas’ portrayal of the character is uncompromising and intricate in its villainy. A play without dialogue is as challenging for its audience as it is for its actors. The back and forth of monologues sets the play at a slow pace for the first half, appropriate for the setting but stilted all the same. Some of the explosive action from the later part of the play could have emerged earlier to punctuate these long insights.
Music from Eren Anderson exponentially enhances the theatrical environment and provides emotional undertones which compliment the vivid language of Tim Rhys’ script nicely. Atmospheric and plaintive, the music helps guide the script through its tonal shifts. The sound design as a whole is highly captivating, with the crack of twigs under the actors’ feet providing suspense in key moments of tension. The play has moments which are truly grisly and may mean it’s best foregone by those sensitive to blood and horror. Still, for the rest of us, Stone the Crows is a powerful and transformative theatre experience that’s more than worth giving yourself over to.
Stone the Crows is running at Chapter Art Centre’s Seligman Theatre until 1 April.