Clockwork Canaries

By Jessica Holliland

Clockwork Canaries - Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner

Clockwork Canaries – Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner


When you write an academic essay they tell you to open up with your statement and then to set about proving it, that is how I am going to approach this review and I can do it with four very simple words.

Go and See It.

Clockwork Canaries is hands down, the best written, most beautifully performed, and delicately balanced piece of live theatre I have seen in a very long time. Perhaps ever.

The darkness and humour running through the storyline had more than a touch of Neil Gaiman about it and there was definitely a smidge of Chris Riddell’s Ottaline to Tatiana’s character. The script was written beautifully, each character layered with the others to create something captivating and believable in spite of the obvious ridiculousness and humour. I find that sometimes with a small cast and small stage you find yourself tracking the actor more than the character as they struggle to convince you of who and where they are, but the actors in this production were truly engaging and sincere, they simply were their characters and they drew you in to the story like a well-written book does.

Clockwork Canaries - Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner

Clockwork Canaries – Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner

Clockwork Canaries - Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner

Clockwork Canaries – Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner


Set in an ambiguous period of history you join the eccentric but seemingly loving family of Tatiana and her Father, Maximillian, as they welcome the half drowned addition of Count Frederick Sebastian to their home – but little do they know what drama this will bring. This delightfully scraggily puppet leads the story to strange places, or does he simply follow Maximillian Dressler to them? What I do know is that he somehow carries as much personality as any of the cast members. The puppet became the cat and the puppeteer simply hid in plain sight, never acknowledging the audience or the cast in any way until he actually seemed to become the Count Frederick Sebastian, the man vanishing altogether.

A special mention should be made to Christopher Staines, who carries the weight of a thousand (well 4) roles on his shoulders majestically throughout the performance. In spite of the oh so evident 6 o’clock shadow you really start to believe he IS the Raven, Mrs Stein-Hoffelman, and then BOOM the dreadfully impressive bust is gone and he’s a trench coated lawman with a grudge; he must be utterly exhausted by the end of the show.

Murderous cats, delusional dads, homicidal neighbours, a cheerily death obsessed girl and some slightly twisted lawmakers come together in this story to create something truly special and unique. Something that you should most definitely see.

Clockwork Canaries - Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner

Clockwork Canaries – Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner

Clockwork Canaries is showing at The Drum at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 10th March and is suitable for Adults and young people with a dark nature that aren’t squeamish. (The advice is brave 8 year olds and up) You can book your tickets on their website here

Clockwork Canaries - Theatre Royal Plymouth Photo credit Steve Tanner