Visually captivating: Sita Pieraccini in Bird

Dance Base, Edinburgh

Róisín O’Brien

A mound of dirt, indistinguishable from its human inhabitant greets the audience, bathed in rainbow lighting. Bird by Sita Pieraccini is visually captivating, but it is only in the final part of the piece that we are given something more arresting.

Pieraccini becomes a bird, or a bird-like creature, for the whole forty minutes. Aiming to explore our wants and needs, often the piece doesn’t go much further than this surface presentation. Yes, hunger dictates our everyday actions, but simply playing the sound of a hungry stomach constantly doesn’t tell us much more than that.

David Pollock’s soundscape features recorded sounds of foraging that are mapped onto Pieraccini’s movements. The sounds themselves are crisp, and have a sense of consideration in their selection.  Pieraccini’s own sounds are consequently mostly overridden by Pollock’s imitation of what she’s doing. This sometimes creates a distance between what is happening and what is seen, and so proves disconcerting. At other times, however, this distance allows for some beautiful miming and response on Pieraccini’s part to imagined events and creatures.

Pieraccini impressively stays in character, though how she wants to connect to the audience is sometimes unclear. Is she inviting, is she curious, is she even aware of her voyeurs? At times she scuttles in under her elaborately ruffled costume, and contorted, inhuman shapes and movements start to appear. Such sequences briefly take the piece out of the confines of its world into a more crafted, symbolic place.

A crescendo of thunder sounds and sporadic, flashing lighting announces an ending that is jarring and nerve-tingling: the rest of the piece lacks this effect for the audience, but perhaps a slow build is needed to arrive there. Bird has the potential for an immersive theatrical experience, but remains mostly in a distant, one-dimensional plane.

Bird is at Dance Base to August 28.