Writer: Stef Smith
Director: Orla O’Loughlin
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
A compelling and bitter-sweet snapshot of the lives of three women in transition; Stef Smith’s Swallow is lyrical, witty and poignant in equal measure.
Anna (Emily Wachter) spends her time alone in her flat, alternately dancing and working on her next big project. Sam (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) is ready to try new things, while Rebecca (Anita Vettesse) tries to go backwards but discovers the door has already closed. Each is undergoing a transformation, trying to find her feet in a world that is often cruel and frightening.
Deftly directed by Orla O’Loughlin, Swallow is like a tapestry: skilfully woven with distinct sections that beautifully overlap. With an aptly sparse set that echoes the mental and physical deconstruction of the characters, the lack of clutter allows Smith’s evocative text to flourish. The superb cast make the most of the comedy and emotion of the piece: Duncan-Brewster has a quiet power coupled with a wonderful ease, while Wachter and Vettesse’s conversations through the moveable door range from the surreal to the sublime.
While many plays at this year’s festival touch on issues of Mental Health, what is stirring about Swallow is the incremental nature of these women’s troubles: the play begins at the end of a slow burn for each of them, an accretion of incidents that have led them to the brink of breakdown. There is not one, cataclysmic event – rather they are eroded.
Despite all this, the piece remains hopeful, with each woman taking a tentative step towards the light as the play draws to a close. Certainly not out of the woods, but following the breadcrumbs in the right direction.
Runs until 30th August 2015