Project Overview

About The Bird Game

“What is a Crow anyway?
Crows are people that did bad things."

The Bird Game is a wicked fairy tale in which a loquacious and bloodthirsty crow, voiced by Joanne Whalley, lures six children to a secluded mansion and snares them in a sequence of deranged games. It mixes dismembered parts of Sleeping Beauty and Ovid’s Metamorphoses into a sinister witch’s brew. Crow may be a villain but she is also an enchantress, a masterful storyteller and, in her climactic retelling of how she became a bird, a strange and scarred kind of heroine. Also featured in this hellish tale of childhood and transformation are a wolf-haunted lullaby, dirty Disney costumes, eels, and an enucleated eyeball. – Text by Charlie Fox.

Directed by Marianna Simnett, co-written by Marianna Simnett & Charlie Fox, produced by Sophie Neave, shot on 16mm by Robbie Ryan BSC, starring Joanne Whalley as 'Crow', music by Oliver Coates, and performed by live birds and children at Waddesdon Manor. 

Purchase limited edition film stills from The Bird Game here


About Confessions of a Crow

Confessions of a Crow is a companion to The Bird Game that draws out the ideas and influences of the film and deftly echoes its structure and mood. Assembling talking-head sound bites from critics and creative collaborators, it integrates them with the maverick musical musings of Simnett’s ringleader Crow herself. 

Writers Marina Warner, Charlie Fox and James Bridle, artist Lindsey Mendick, and composer Oliver Coates speak eloquently about The Bird Game’s overlapping themes, which range from the insidious impact of new digital technologies to the enduring power of fantasy and mythology, and focus on the hypnotic, addictive and increasingly sleepless hyperactivity of contemporary life. With the aid of behind-the-scenes footage and archive photographs of Waddesdon Manor, where The Bird Game was shot, Simnett dives into the history of the house which accommodated evacuee children in the Second World War, and to this day houses some of the rarest species of songbirds in its magnificent aviary. The troubling link between caging and caring is teased out through Crow’s terrifying grip on her child-prey, and her shifting role between abuser and abused. 

The Bird Game was commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of the Evelina Children’s Hospital for Sick Children, named after the wife of Ferdinand de Rothschild who also created Waddesdon Manor, and comes at a time when the mental health of the young has become a matter of growing attention and concern. 


"Crow says anyone can play The Bird Game. In fact, you only need to look around to realise it’s already being played by millions all over the world. But you have to be ready to play. The Bird Game is for those whose brains can’t be fried by corrosive systems. The Bird Game is for the mutants and monsters and mermaids and cyborgs and aliens and werewolves and unicorns. Crow says we are all sick, every one of us, yes you and you and you and you and you and you and yes you too. And the sooner you get along with that the sooner you’ll win the game. Another thing. In The Bird Game, the rules can change at any moment. There is no stable ground to stand on. And so the only thing to do is to stay alert, embrace the strangeness and fly into the flame."
– Marianna Simnett
“a modern fable of abuse, trauma and transformation.”
“in the same way that Crow gets into the brains of these children, Simnett affects us as our expectations are artfully subverted around each turn.”
– Millenium Film Journal


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Assemblage Magazine | On ‘The Bird Game’ by Marianna Simnett

5 November 2019
Link to article
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