FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: Touring theatre company drops in!

The Rude Mechanical Theatre Co bring Macbyrd to the Festival of Chichester as part of their tour to small rural communities across the south of England, from Kent to Devon.

As founder Pete Talbot explains: “We are a contemporary commedia dell’arte company working with communities right across the south of England in a carnivalesque tradition that goes back thousands of years, visiting annually with brand-new stories, making people laugh, moving them and being provocative – and have a fanatical following of over seven thousand people who keep coming back.

“In 2015 we revisited one of our early original plays The Comedy of Babbi Babbett, and for 2016 we are delighted to be debuting our 15th original play Macbyrd.”

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The West Sussex shows are Halnaker Park Cottage, Halnaker – Sun, June 26; West Chiltington Recreation Ground – Thurs, June 30; Sussex Prairie Gardens Henfield – Sun, July 3; and Milland Recreation Ground – Thurs, Aug 4. All at 7.30pm. Picnics from 6pm.

“Macbyrd is a comedy thriller – and sixteen of the characters are birds! Don’t miss Inspector Seed, a pigeon, as the detective! It is set in 1940 and is about the changes to a small village in rural Sussex, Jevington, brought about by the threat of invasion, its impact on the local WI, the cricket club, the village play, and on relationships, and on how with the war people must take on new roles.

“There are two stories which link together. Up above there is a power struggle among the birds, and the swan, symbol of a certain kind of traditional Englishness and social structure, is murdered by the upstart raven, Macbyrd, who resents the swan’s snobbish disregard for the poor, the sparrows. There are, it has to be admitted, a few echoes of a certain Shakespeare play. Macbyrd is told by the ‘gypsy magpies’ that his time has come, that ‘sleek birds, black against the sky’ will rule. In fact, change to the village is because a momentous event is going to happen – and I’m not going to tell you what! Prejudice among the ‘oomans puts the death of the swan down to gypsies and among the birds to a foreigner, a rare Indian bushlark which has been swept in by storms.

“Here’s the serious bit. In the same way that Hitler represented a threat to our values, so too in people’s perceptions do other things today. How do we deal with those ‘threats’ and what indeed do our values really consist of and how should we adapt in the face of change? Inevitably base instincts like prejudice surface. In this cauldron of change the play explores the values of ordinariness (the heroism of living an ‘ordinary’ life as part of a community), leadership, love and adaptivity that remain constants in difficult times. The comedy is partly in the absurdity of the birds’ world, but also – and it is a comedy of manners – in the ways of ‘country folk.’”

Bring your own low backed chairs and warm clothing.

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Tickets £15 on 01323 501260 or www.therudemechanicaltheatre.co.uk.

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