Review: Zugunruhe by MECHANIMAL

A unique and mesmerising production examining the migration of birds

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 11 Aug 2018
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Overwhelmingly, Zugunruhe is intriguing. And unsettling. And very interesting. A German scientific term for a "migratory restlessness" observed in birds, 'Zugunruhe' describes the discovery that birds know when they should be flying across the globe, so if they find themselves stuck in a cage they start to twitch and flutter.

Restless is a perfect descriptor for this production, performed with impressive physical, transformational commitment by Tom Bailey. For this performance, he is a bird. It’s unsettling, but in a beautiful way that reflects back on ourselves more than anything. Why shouldn’t he be a bird? This is theatre after all.

The comparison between bird migration and human migration is an easy one, but it occurs to us in subtle waves. A cry. A laugh. Language or birdsong. A sound that could be birds, could be electrical interference, could be bombs. The production is hard to pin down. Immersive sound design from Rowan Evans places us effectively in landscapes across the world, hearing the birds and humans that occupy these spaces, while Bailey delicately controls mesmerising moments followed by plaintive bursts of energy, as though fighting an invisible force. Are we that force?

Zugunruhe's focus is global and international and it is a unique and accomplished production. We see the world anew and place ourselves next to the birds, perhaps less willing to ignore them and their epic travels, and certainly more likely to consider how we are impacting their lives.