The debut play of award-winning actor Robert Fridjhon – last seen giving a superlative comic turn in Don’t Dress for Dinner (see our review) – Twitch uncovers into a rich source of comedy in the seemingly dull world of bird watching. Twitchers, as ardent birdwatchers lovingly refer to themselves, are a rather odd bunch, often rather more birdbrained than the feathered beings on the other side of their binoculars. Fridjhon unerringly taps into this deep well of ridiculousness to create a uniquely South African piece of theatre.
The set by Greg King is almost cartoonish in its crooked windows and exaggerated perspective. This serves as the perfect backdrop for the hilarities ahead.
Twitch is brought to life by an exceptionally potent ensemble. Michael Richard plays Finlay, a character who is passionately involved in the obscure world of birding and slightly less passionately married to Maddie (the multi-award-winning Louise Saint-Claire) who seems to more of a personal assistant than a partner. They are joined for a birdwatching competition in the Kruger National Park by fellow twitcher Harper (Russel Savadier) and his wife, Venice (Bronwyn Gottwald) who would not be able to tell a finch from a dove.
The fact that there are two directors, Steven Stead and Charmaine Weir-Smith, perhaps contributes to the interplay of subtle nuance with boisterous acting. When Harper talks about the uncertainty of his child’s paternity it is as though it is being told by unconnected person: the emotion on his face does not meet his voice. When Finlay laughs it’s a completely different story. The man laughs with his entire being. His face goes bright red and before you know it you too are laughing. No matter what your complexion, you will also have a red face. Twitch is complexion-changing funny!
As the foursome waits in anticipation for rarities such as the Martial Eagle, the audience observes the dysfunctional dynamic that unfolds between them. If you are a twitcher you will laugh with Twitch and if not, you will laugh at it. Fridjhon spins an intricate web, creating inside jokes within the play. So while you won’t necessarily find insight on how to deal with a significant other’s weird hobby or obsession, you will be able to add a few snappy one liners to your arsenal. Agreed?
Jana van Heerden
Twitch runs at Theatre on the Bay 15 May to 1 June 2013.