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Brisbane review - Don’t Ask What the Bird Look Like: an achingly beautiful and profound piece of art

By Nahima Abraham


Don’t Ask What the Bird Look Like

Written by Hannah Belanszky

Directed by Lee Lewis and Roxanne McDonald

Presented by Queensland Theatre

Queensland Theatre

Merivale Street

West End


Tickets: https://tickets.queenslandtheatre.com.au/events. Season Ends September 9

Run time: approximately 100 mins without interval



Don’t Ask What the Bird Look Like is a story rooted in tragedy, ancient stories, and wisdom beyond countless years. It is a powerful tale of insurmountable loss, new connections, and ultimately, love.

When Joan (Matilda Brown) takes a trip to see her estranged father, Mick (Michael Tuahine), she wants to connect more with him, with Country, and with her ancestors. In a town with no name, she struggles with herself and her budding relationship with her father. At first, tentative, the relationship blossoms, but at a price. Joan wants to learn so much more than what Mick is willing to give, and with the addition of Mick’s old flame, Pattie (Shakira Clanton), matters become inexorably intertwined and all the more complex.

What Roxanne McDonald, Lee Lewis, and the rest of the team behind Don’t Ask What the Bird Look Like have done is created an achingly beautiful and profound piece of art. Despite the heavy, heady themes that wrap around this play, it was undeniable that the audience was in thrall from the very first moment.

The acting was top-notch, the characters, relatable, and the setting, lighting, and eerie, mournful soundtrack just beautiful. There is something to be said about the development of the characters as well, as fantastic acting must have a base to work from. Shakira Clanton in the audience’s eyes was the true star of the night.

Despite coming in mid-piece, the character of Pattie had the whole room shaking with laughter at every word. Her sass, swager, and ultimately flawed persona, was captivating and tragic. Matilda Brown, while not quite a QT debutante, was thoroughly impressive and took the weight of the play onto her shoulders and ran like it was nothing. Michael Tuahine was impassive, and it almost seemed as though he was actually, really Mick. To get so fully into a character, that the distinction between acting and reality is slim, is no small feat.

All of the cast should be fully lauded. This was an amazing performance, where there was something for everyone. From the tender, to the heartbreaking, to the comedic, Don’t Ask What the Bird Look Like is a play that speaks beyond sixty thousand years of rich culture and history. It is profound, beautiful, and wonderful. So, look no further than Queensland Theatre for another masterpiece.


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