A man imitates a bird, whilst a voiceover sometimes relays factual information about the migration of the marsh warbler. Zugunruhe is a unique type of performance but really works.
Named after a German term describing the migratory restlessness in birds, Zugunruhe must be one of the most unusual shows of this year’s Fringe. This is largely due to its topic which – even though parallels can of course be drawn between animals and people – truly does revolve around the fairly specific inability of migratory birds to rest or relax.
Beyond that, it’s pretty hard to describe what actually happens in the performance – nevertheless, it proves absolutely gripping, as the vocal abilities and overall dedication to his art of Tom Bailey never ceases to amaze throughout the show’s 1hr duration.
In that sense, Zugunruhe is less a show for intellectual understanding – and more for feeling the embodied anxiousness, restlessness and need to fly free. Although there is some narration accompanying the performer (relaying research into the way birds migrate), it is really easy to give up on following it and just focus on the sole performer. This ignorance would be unfortunate though, as some of the information shared with the audience – such as how Bailey’s bird of choice, the marsh warbler, copies songs he hears on his travels and enriches all of his destinations with a new sound – is fascinating to hear about and does carry a message regarding human migration within it.
Zugunruhe is frequently mesmerising, but prepare to enjoy something completely unusual for which you will need to accept Tom Bailey’s terms of performance: there is a man imitating a bird while a voiceover sometimes gives you factual information about the migration of the marsh warbler. There is nothing more to it, but at the same time, nothing more is really needed. While this show couldn’t handle a much longer duration, it fulfils its sixty minutes better than many other shows I’ve seen this summer. It is a unique type of performance but really works.