Review: Hummingbird, VAULT Festival

Bruised Sky Productions & Fledgling Theatre Company’s Hummingbird is a slippery thing about the unpredictable nature of grief at VAULT Festival

“Do you ever think about how much grass there is?”

Grief can hit us in a multitude of ways. For Phoeb, the disappearance of her husband Gavin led her to withdraw from the world. When she eventually re-emerges at the farmhouse inherited by her half-sister Jude and her partner Brian, there’s relief (that’s she safe) and rancour (at how she left them in the lurch) but once Phoeb declares that Gavin has returned to them, things take a highly unexpected turn.

For she believes he has come to her as a hummingbird, and she determined to join him one way or another. Christopher Neels’ play Hummingbird thus explores the all-encompassing nature of grief and how we all yet deal with it differently. Jude and Brian are grieving the loss of a friend too but as Phoeb’s plan becomes ever more audacious, we’re asked to question how far we should let our loved ones go in the name of that grief.

Thrown into the mix is Jude and Brian’s struggles to adapt to life on a farm that they’re not hugely enthused about having. Flavoured milk taste tests, conversations with sheep, battles over Monopoly, Phoeb’s arrival throws an already febrile situation into further chaos but as her grieving process takes particular shape, responding to the avian nature of Gavin’s return, it inspires its own awakening within Brian, his attempts to help her aiding him in working through some of his issues.

Neels also acts as director and he is clearly well-attuned to the slightly off-beat nature of his work – small details keep us off-kilter (the initial him of that radio for one) but there’s a lot here to make you smile, with surprises in store right through the hour. Fresh from supplying pills across the Calder Valley, Amit Shah is huge fun as Brian, his game performance connecting well with Nancy Zamit’s impressively wrought Jude. And after smashing it in Thirsty earlier this festival, Louise Beresford is excellent as the volatile Phoeb, a nervy edginess running through her work.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Hummingbird is booking at VAULT Festival until 5th March

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