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Dance and Theatre

10th March 2021

Bristol-Based Mechanimal’s award-winning theatrical exploration offers a deeper insight into animal (and human?) migration.

‘Zugunruhe’ (zoo-gun-rue): an ornithological term for ‘migratory restlessness in birds’ is a one-man, physical, immersive journey exploring the incredible flight of a Marsh Warbler, the world’s only bird species whose song echoes* its migration route from East Africa, through Arabia into Europe.

Rehearsing among birds in the wetlands of Somerset, performer Tom Bailey creates an array of authentic bird behaviours alongside a digital sound map of the marsh warbler’s journey made by composer Rowan Evans.

Encountering body-compasses, magnetic fields, African sunsets, star chasing, storm riding and homing, ‘Zugunruhe’ aims to widen the lens on the way we think about migration by looking at it from the point of view of natural history and evolution.

By specifically exploring birds, the show takes audiences on a fascinating journey into non-human migration in the 21st century – and how this might in turn offer reflections on human movement. Heavy? Yes. Incredible? Also yes.

“I’ve been making work about the natural world for a few years now, exploring the representation of non-human life on stage a way to ‘meet’ the animal, physically, rhythmically, emotionally, in my body and imagination. But now rethinking how those live pieces might translate for an online audience. Zugunruhe is a mix of fun, movement, sadness, laughter, beautiful sound… I hope this is a space to reflect on the impact we are having on our changing planet.” Tom Bailey

Mechanimal have redeveloped ‘Zugunruhe’ to work for a new online audience. Filmed at The Pound arts centre in Corsham, Wiltshire over four days during the January 2021 lockdown by filmmaker Jack Offord, along with outdoor location shooting to bring in a cinematic connection to the various landscapes encountered by the marsh warbler.

Add in projection, a soundscape featuring numerous voice overs, and a lot of feathers – you are invited to listen to the song of the marsh warbler and be taken on a soaring, sonic audio journey as this bird takes flight.

This digital recording was made possible with funding from Arts Council England and support from Pound Arts.

“The online digital arts offered to audiences over the last 10 months has been a lifeline for many. We are proud that Pound Arts has been able to play a significant role in helping artists to achieve a foothold in this genre and look forward to embedding digital work into our programmes for the foreseeable future.” – Russ Tunney, Director, Pound Arts.

*The Marsh Warbler ‘collects’ local birds’ songs as it passes through countries on its migration.