“This is not about us”, says Brigitte Aphrodite as she introduces the audience to Parakeet – a new piece of gig theatre for which she has written the words, and Quiet Boy has provided the music. It’s running at Summerhall’s ROUNDABOUT performance space and (with the Extinction Rebellion banner still hanging proudly outside the main building) there’s probably no more appropriate place for this piece of theatre to unfold.
When out and about in London you may have stumbled across some birds that are slightly more exotic in look than your common or garden pigeon: parakeets! These bright green feathered friends can be found in almost any area of the capital, as well as further south in the Isle of Thanet. This show follows the central character from London to Margate, as her mum relocates and shacks up with her new boyfriend; she’d always dreamt of seeing a parakeet for herself, but the long-awaited sighting eludes her for quite some time. When she does eventually spy one, she comes across a wonderful tree that becomes a bit of a haven for her. Around the same time she forms a band with two other teenagers, sharing their outlook and hoping to find a way to change the world.
With teenage revolutionary Greta Thunberg back in the news, as she sails across to America for a climate summit, the consternation of the three young women at the centre of Parakeet must be addressed: how is it possible that at the age of 16 they can join the army, have sex, or play the lottery, but they can’t have a say in how their country’s future will be shaped? On one hand they’re expected to behave like adults and make some pretty important decisions about their own lives, but on the other they’re given the message that they’re not trusted to make decisions that will affect other people. There can’t have been many more occasions in history where the voice of youth has been so keen to be heard – or so shamelessly ignored.
Brigitte Aphrodite’s ‘day job’, as it were, is feminist punk poet; there is definite poetry to the script, as well as some beautifully evocative lines (for example, there’s talk of “David Bowie-esque lightning bolts” early on). Whilst the show’s main focus is on the youth voice and the ecological matters surrounding the UK parakeet population, Aphrodite is also able to make a bit of a parallel to wider issues when local residents talk about the plight of the “native birds” with all of these green-feathered individuals slowly pushing them out.
What matters most with this show is the feelings it inspires, as well as a sense of catharsis for the generation that feels so consistently ignored and dismissed. They have their own new ‘punk’ ideal, that’s anarchic but ultimately empathetic – smashing the system to create a caring new world. The music is a great outlet for these feelings, as well as the band obviously being a good plot device to help bring the group of teenagers together.
Lula Mebrahtu, Isabel Oliver and Michelle Tiwo make up the dynamic trio, living & breathing the show with every fibre of their being. Unafraid of getting up close and personal with the audience, they bound around the ROUNDABOUT with an enviable energy and infectious enthusiasm. Along with Brigitte Aphrodite & Quiet Boy accompanying them with the music, and the occasional pre-recorded voiceover from comedian Tom Allen, the company create a show that will not be tamed.
My verdict? A punk gig theatre experience for a new generation, bristling with energy and overflowing with enthusiasm – this Parakeet will not be tamed!
Parakeet runs at ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall until 25 August 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.