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Posts Tagged ‘The Swan’

Apart from The Swan, part of the NT Paintframe quartet of new plays, the work of hotly tipped playwright D C Moore has passed me by. This new four-hander has come from Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, directed by Richard Wilson, who has a real affinity with new writing.

Young couple Lewis & Morgan occupy a small flat which they bought as an investment but ended up living in after it’s value dropped by £50k. Despite the size of their home, they decide to start a family but just as they are about to make the first attempt Lewis’ college friend Waldorf arrives (quite possibly the most original entrance ever, which I will not give away), returning from a 7-year gap year, to claim the sofa and rule out baby-making.

The following day, Lewis arrives home to find Steph, someone who Waldorf has picked up, is also there. Steph has stories to tell of adventurous sex. In a combination of dare, adventure and experimentation, Waldorf and Lewis (both straight) decide to have sex with each other and video it. Lewis confesses to wife Morgan, who reluctantly ‘agrees’ and off they go to a hotel room.

Though it’s often very funny and its beautifuly played, the core problem for me is the complete implausibility of the situation. I just didn’t believe it would happen to these people at this time of their life in this way. It’s fair to say that the second act, in the hotel bedroom, is superb and the set up is good, but the second half of the longer first act, where the implausibility starts, drags.

Henry Pettigrew and Philip McGinley are both excellent as Lewis and Waldorf. Jessica Ransom did well to bring life to Morgan, a character lost in such a big story. I would have loved to see more of Jenny Rainsford’s lovely portrait of wild child Stpeh.

Fun, but in the end lacking in depth and believability.

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I’ve been a critic of the NT’s ability to pick new plays for some time, but based on the first pair in this interesting summer season, the tide might be turning. They’ve created a ‘pop up’ theatre in the paintframe at the back /side of the building with its own bar and a live band pre-show, post-show and during the interval. The benches are a bit uncomfortable and you have to nip next door to the Cottesloe for a pee, but this is their best showcase of new work since they created a theatre box in the Lyttleton circle foyer some time back.

Sam Holcroft has contributed a clever and original play called Edgar & Annabel set in some police state where the opposition is torn between the forthcoming election and more violent opposition. It would be a spoiler to say a lot more. It’s really well structured (though a touch too long) and its performed in a kitchen that looks like it’s in a container that (appropriately) makes you feel as if you’re spying on them. It occasionally surprises you and is often funny, but it’s ultimately rather chilling.

I missed DC Moore’s much lauded The Empire, but based on his contribution here, I won’t be missing his plays in the future. The Swan is set in a London pub immediately before the wake of Michael, whose father, wife and step-daughter are the characters at the heart of the play. The father misses his son’s funeral, the step-daughter leaves it part way through and the wife turns up just before the other guests. Michael has left a trail of lies and deception and the debate centres on who needs to and who should know. The expletive littered naturalistic dialogue sparkles and the character development extraordinary for a short play.  It makes you laugh but you’re also much engaged in the debate. The traverse staging adds an intensity to your involvement. I loved it.

Soutra Gilmour has created two excellent designs and two configurations; its like going to two different theatres. The pub is particularly evocative. In an exceptional cast of 13, Trystan Gravelle captures the political passion of Nick in the first play and Nitin Kundra and Claire-Louise Cordwell a pair of brilliant cameos in the second.

An 8.15pm start and 11pm finish is a bit of a mistake for people with post-theatre journeys and jobs the following morning, but I’m looking forward to the next pairing and very much welcome both the new venue and great new writing.

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