Above – Mandy and Hayley McElhinney. Photo – France Andrijich

The stage is set in what purports to be the interior of a cardboard box, however this minimalist design works brilliantly as a setting for Mandy McElhinney and Hayley McElhinney as the two sisters, Mary and Martha.

The two leads are chimera – transforming themselves into a formidable range of characters in this outstanding production.

The sisters in this play are at an impasse. They must leave their humble abode, bills haven’t been paid, food is scarce and a storm is looming. Desperately they trawl through memories, experiences, familiar rituals and many cups of tea seeking the courage to leave their flimsy shelter. To quote Champion, ”They are characters who are stuck in their skin, their upbringing, their bodies, their perceptions of themselves, the habit of pretending, because they don’t feel they live up to society’s expectations.”

We, the audience, are carried along on this epic journey with them. Both McElhinney sisters are excellent performers and their comedic skills provide a clever, witty contrast to the challenging scenario.

Created by Mandy McElhinney and Hayley McElhinney after twenty years of dreaming and reflecting on their own Irish heritage, Dirty Birds captures our desperate longing for shared identity, and the courage it takes to step out into a hostile world. The densely scripted narrative is a tour de force of creative writing, matched with acting rich in detail and verve.

At seventy minutes in length with no interval, this work is demanding of audience attention but it is an exercise that ultimately pays dividends.

Event details

Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
Dirty Birds
by Hayley McElhinney & Mandy McElhinney

Director Kate Champion

Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre | Perth, WA
Dates: 18 November – 10 December 2023
Bookings: www.blackswantheatre.com.au

Most read Perth reviews

More from this author