UBC Theatre's The Parliament of the Birds explores truth and enlightenment

The UBC Department of Theatre and Film invites audiences to step away from our troubled world and consider one of their own creation until December 3 — inspired by Sufi poetry, the natural world and the deceptive simplicity of fables.

The Parliament of the Birds is a play based on the 12th century Sufi poem, The Conference of Birds, by poet Farid ud-Din Attar. UBC’s version is adapted by Guillermo Verdecchia and directed by Camyar Chaichian to modernize the story for a contemporary audience.

The play tells the story of a group of birds who have been gathered by a hoopoe (a colourful bird found across parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, often associated with wisdom) to find Simorgh, a mythical bird who is framed as the key to enlightenment. She tries, with much resistance, to get the other birds to reevaluate their pessimistic worldviews and let go of their worldly attachments for a chance at truth and happiness. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, love and unity between birds of all species and backgrounds.

“My vision was to do justice to the words of the playwright and justice to the heart and poetry of this beautiful Sufi mysticism,” said Chaichian in an interview with The Ubyssey, “and to make sure that is something the audience are able to connect with … to hopefully affect their lives in a positive way.”

Along their journey, the Hoopoe tells the birds stories which offer insight to both characters and audience-members.

Chaichian described the play as a story “full of beautiful and universal themes that transcend time and space.” He explained that Attar aimed to tap into “universal humanity” during times of divide, hatred, war, oppression, tribalism and greed. These themes are evident in the play as the birds overcome their differences and persevere despite mutual disagreements.

With stellar performances by the UBC acting class of 2022 cast, The Parliament of the Birds is a flattering adaptation of Attar’s timeless poetry. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, sparked by witty dialogue, convincing performances and soothing vocal performances by actress Caylee Watrin.

The feathers, accessories and choice of clothing for the Hoopoe, Parrot, Crow, Cardinal and Falcon costumes are reminiscent of the birds they portray. However, the simplicity in the costumes of the smaller characters make it confusing to remember who is who. Often, I was taken out of the story because I couldn’t remember who I was looking at.

The ending comes full circle as the bickering friends come together to find the answers they were searching for were inside them all along.

“We’ve done such beautiful and hard work, and there’s been such a wonderful energy, and we received such good support from the staff and faculty. There’s this very big sense of excitement. We’re brimming with excitement to share what we’ve created with the audience on opening night and the subsequent nights.”

The show runs from November 24 to its closing performance on December 3. Definitely check out The Parliament of the Birds if you want to ponder or reflect on the world’s most philosophical questions, or if you simply want to enjoy an evening of laughter.