Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

With beautiful puppets and eccentric characters, audiences are whisked away to the moon in this pleasant fairytale. Moonbird is the story of young Orla, the son of a king and queen. However, these parents struggle, because they learn that Orla is deaf and cannot understand them in the way they would like him to. Handprint Theatre brings us a tale of acceptance and perseverance as Orla develops his confidence and his parents learn to listen to the way Orla wishes to be heard. This is an incredibly charming piece as we follow Orla through his journey to acceptance, meeting lovable animal characters in the process.

Three mischievous monkeys coax Orla out of his shell and as they teach him about sign language, it’s a chance for the audience to learn too. As someone who doesn’t know British Sign Language, this was a perfect opportunity to be taught alongside our protagonist. It was simple but made a huge impact on the inclusivity of the performance. It showed that, whilst it may be directed towards those who are deaf, families and individuals who want to learn are welcome too. This was something the show did incredibly well. At times, there were three different ways to follow the story including sign language, speech, and written subtitles on a screen, all tied together to ensure no audience member was left out. That being said, the exaggerated and physical actions of the performers were enough to understand their storytelling.

As a children’s show, it was captivating and used physical theatre and puppetry to its advantage, so its audience was hooked. Moonbird is also a show that’s important to both those who are hard of hearing as well as those who wish to understand more about how to be inclusive to the deaf community. Moonbird is a heart-warming tale, illustrating to audiences that there is more to communication than just listening with our ears.