2012 Melbourne Fringe:
• The Red Bird and Death

Posted on 02 October 2012

Good storytelling skills are one of the bedrocks of good comedy. At least with storytelling, if the jokes fall flat but the story is interesting, no one minds too much. This is why I recommend comedians take the time to go to performances such as Roslyn Quin’s The Red Bird and Death.

Quin is a passionate storyteller. She possesses a depth of knowledge in European folklore and fairytales. Hers is not a Disney fed imagination sanitised of all humanity. For Red Bird she teamed up with producer/director Olivia Duval of Golden Owl Events. Duval specialises in elaborate masked balls and public roleplaying games.

The first thing you notice about The Red Bird and Death is its richly detailed production values. I usually advocate that less is more when it comes to props. However, when they thematically hold together and are aesthetically woven into a space, so that in the end everything has its place, the audience is drawn in by the lavish scenic tapestry rather than confused by a cluttered jumble.

The prop item that most enchanted the audience was the furry chair. It had a pair of large horns and its arms were in fact arms, which ended in clawed paws that upon occasion waggled with the help of a puppeteer. Other magical prop items I dare not describe for fear of spoiling their surprise.

Quin’s storytelling reminds us that fairytales were originally an adult affair. The Victorian era has a lot to answer for—infantilising part of the British cultural heritage. It was during that time the depiction of fairies went from including large radiant deities to only diminutive winged spirits. Quin’s stories include murder, monsters, and brushes with death and the devil.

She was supported by live musicians and a team of puppeteers. Musical group XIBE8 (Matt Brown, Peter Dumsday, and Shannon Millard) wove their own magic with an ambient sound that included the warmth of traditional instruments and the unearthly qualities of electronica and syncopated noise. Puppeteers Emma Buckley, Kieren Martin, Fyodor Krasniy and Matt Hood brought to life shadow puppets, body puppets, hand, rod, and object puppets. The show definitely had a Jim Henson’s The Storyteller feel to it. The puppeteers demonstrated real skill and with a light touch brought their characters to life.

The creative density of this show was impressive. The best word to describe The Red Bird and Death is charming…both in the sense of bringing joy and enchanting us with its magic. Roslyn Quin was a shining presence exuding warmth, wisdom, and youthful good-humour. This show is already selling out, so buy tickets immediately.

The Red Bird and Death Melbourne Fringe Website

Peace and kindness,


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