Review – Swallow: Marvellous but flawed people
Above: Helen O’Leary and Julie Cotterell enjoy each other as Sam and Rebecca. Below
right: Elise Grieg as the self destructive Anna. Photos by Tony Byrne
By Stef Smith
Directed by Kate Shearer
Co-presented by E.G. and Metro Arts
Sue Benner theatre
Season: May 25-June 3. Running time: 70 minutes with no interval. Bookings: www.metroarts.com.au
Three women, played by three top class actors, are strangers who live in a block of flats and each is broken in her own way and cannot break the past that has hurt them.
Anna, played by Elise Grieg, is angry enough to smash up everything in her apartment and even starts to rip up her floorboards. She hasn’t left her flat for months and prefers to watch the birds outside and damage her home. She discovered an obsession with rthebroken glass from a mirror she has smashed and finally in her despair decides to build a nest for herself. Why she was in such a state was never made clear.
Rebecca, played by Julie Cotterell, is having a massive breakdown because her husband has left her for another woman and is slowly sinking to the bottom of an alcoholic bottle. Finally Samantha, played by Helen O’Leary, is in gender hell and desperately trying to become Sam.
They are strangers who find each other in different ways and find a way, after a tortuous passage, to helping each other.
Swallow is a study of survival that explores the complexity of the age of technology. It emphasises the loneliness of city living as these three strangers overhear one another’s lives and struggles, only having conversations through a letter box, by text message, and rarely face to face. It is achingly sad in parts but peppered with brittle laughter.
The set is sparse, a door with a letterbox, pieces of wood and a rostrum, but iy was always easy to know her the characters were, in a park, outside the building inside their own space or as many of the more poignant scene were, on both sides of the locked door of Anna’s flat.
At first they wallow in their own misery oblivious to the world around them, but slowly they try to rebuild.
Rebecca and Sam meet in a park, Sam is delighted to be taken for a man, and Rebecca, drunks as a skunk, is happy to have found a man who wants her. They kiss and Sam even tries for more.
Rebecca isn’t happy when she discovers she is being fooled, but the pair discovers that they have things in common and become friends.
Rebecca also hears the noise from Anna’s flat and tries to get her to open the door and let her in. She has come out of her destructive phase and wants to help. Finally the door is opened and Anna follows the birds outside. The trio has broken free of self destruction and face an uncertain future. It is not a happy ending, but it is the start of one.
The three actors work as a perfect team as the scenes change; dialogue switches from character to character and place to place. They create marvellous but flawed people who bring in audience into their pain.
It is a play for today when lives are lived on social media and smart phones and human contact seems to be declining.
However, the feeling of optimism remains around the possibilities of connection, if only they can overcome the urge to self-destruct.