A tender, charming gift of a show
There is something quite incredible about the untouched joy of childhood – wide-eyed, curious, and unashamedly optimistic. It is the sort of excitable wonder which adults can so easily forget, and fail to understand. To emulate that dazzling innocence as a more mature actor is, in my opinion, one of the hardest feats you can do, but Teuta Day as BirthdA Girl in Alannah Lewis' new show does just that – and so much more.
A 1-person show, BirthdA follows our protagonist through 6 monologues all taking place on the day of her birthday celebrations. From the off, Day draws you right in with her endearing portrayal of a girl just turning 14. In this first monologue, we hear the classic exchange of a mother asking if you liked your birthday present, and segue into the classic little party.
Very quickly, it is clear that this is a show which has been graced with an actor just as nimble as its script – Lewis' writing often catches you off-guard with quips and one-liners that come out of the blue and land with a laugh which Day can delight in. Her comic timing is fantastic, and the dynamism with which she embodies her character is truly wonderful to watch.
This dynamism often displays a keen attention to the space, in which Zoe Black's direction pays off. With the backstage door acting as the threshold into the rest of BirthdA Girl's house (the play is acted out from within her bedroom, with the anecdotes acted out with relish), the space soon becomes comfortably intimate. One of the main difficulties with producing a 1-person show like this is to get the audience to believe that it's worth their time investing over an hour into this character – BirthdA achieves this with what seems like absolute ease. Little touches to the set also deserve praise – Saffie Patel and Anna Yakovleva only go to aid Day in owning the space with details like birthday cards marking which birthday we'ved moved onto changing with each monologue, and the fairy lights about the door giving a genuine warmth and comfort to the Corpus stage.
One of the most important things to note about this show is the themes which it manages: BirthdA Girl is a young woman with Asperger's for one, and that she gets to tell her own story with such confidence and rigour is one of the shows most shining qualities. There is often a sense of frustration and loneliness hidden under the joy, that comes from the inability for not only BirthdA Girl to always be able to navigate her childhood how she wants or expects to, but from others being unable to understand how her mind works. But by the end of the show, we can be sure that she has firmly established herself as someone who has a voice to be reckoned with.
Alongside this runs the production's underlying, main theme – that of the confusion, mistakes and craziness that manifests in the relationships we create as children. Whether it be with her Mum or best friend Jade, the stories and reactions we see from BirthdA Girl's day to day life are reminiscent of those tricky, but brilliant days we all had to navigate as young teenagers.
You will come out of this show feeling joyful, but also torn up – a revelation that slowly unravels itself shows the heartbreaking nature of the unbridled joy that comes in childhood being tainted. Despite this, the lingering sense is that of a young girl who has the world at her feet: and it put a smile on my face to see that world come to life.