Salisbury Playhouse – 29 March 2017. Reviewed by Joanne Gordon
As The Crow Flies, written by Hattie Naylor, is based on a true story of a woman called Beth (Natalia Campbell) who is struggling to deal with a marriage break up from the love of her life, Matthew. She is hurting, angry and lost until an unusual friendship with an injured crow she names Alfie (Tom Brownlee) slowly turns things around.
There are only 3 characters on stage so it is a very intimate setting. There is younger Beth, current Beth and the injured crow. You see the emotional struggle of a broken, angered woman whose soul mate of 20 years has left her for his childhood sweetheart, in the village they have just moved to from London. She fights the memories of her younger self, who sings the most beautiful songs that she performed with her now distant, unwanted advice giving sister. Back in a time she was happy, young and in love. As time moves forward a stronger, healing Archie and Beth develop a beautiful relationship where Archie does his best to make Beth laugh. Beth fights with her emotions, knocking away a hand of friendship from a local girl, Meg who requests a talk from Beth at the local hall.Seasons come and go, estranged from her sister and no Alfie, Beth is lonely. She receives a phone call from the rescue centre saying Archie may have been killed in a storm, this proves difficult at the talk later that night as she becomes bereft with grief and leaves. Alone again at home with a bottle of wine, she receives a text from her sister, read out by her younger self. Her sister explains that even though she has had no great loves in her life like Beth, she is content and happy with the love of friends and family, Beth should be happy she felt love in abundance even if that is now in the past. Beth ponders on this, then calls her sister, reconciling their differences. She manages the talk at the Hall this time discussing Quantum Entanglement in birds ( previously discussed by Alfie to the audience). She has an enlightenment at that point, realising that good things happened in the past and they can also happen in her future. Returning home she phones Matthew offering to buy his half of the house and wishing him well in life. Life is looking good, a beautiful home, a new job with Meg and closure.
In the Garden, a crow appears, realising it is Alfie and overwhelmed with joy she apologises for leaving him. Alfie presents Beth with five chicks, it slowly dawns on Beth that Alfie is in fact a girl and now a mother!!!!!
I had reservations about this play – but it is wonderfully touching, emotional, thought provoking and beautifully portrayed. Young Beth (Imelda Warren-Green) had a singing voice that gave tenderness and depth to the songs. I could really feel the emotion and heartbreak of older Beth (Natalia Campbell) and my own heart ached for her at times. I forgot Alfie (Tom Brownlee) was a crow as he showed emotion and empathy amazingly well with only a few gestures. I left hoping that Beth found a new love in her music, wanting to learn more about Quantum Entanglement and secretly wishing to befriend a crow just like Alfie!