Swallow

Shef Smith’s new play presents three damaged, complex, engaging characters, each trying to continue their lives in spite of a new sense of chaos surrounding them. One is reeling from a split with her husband, another hasn’t left the house since “two Christmases ago”, and the final character explores a newly acknowledged masculine identity within.

Predominately well-written and wonderfully performed, Swallow is a striking and important piece of theatre.

Smith’s control over language is impressive throughout. Much of the play is written with a lyricism and beauty at odds to the situations the characters have found themselves in. Extended descriptions of birds, nests, and blood elevate the play to a level beyond simply ‘good theatre’. It is only in the final moments of the play that the poetry becomes somewhat overwhelming, closing the play with a slight feeling of overkill.

A combination of set and lighting design allows for a neat physicalisation of the situations the characters find themselves in. The set, left bare apart from three different chairs, allows the focus to fall on the actors: this is a play driven entirely by the characters and the language of the piece. It is the lighting – dividing the stage into three distinct cells – which traps the characters into their worlds.

The acting from all three actors throughout the play is superb: each actor manages to create an entirely different sense of energy and chaos for their character. Anita Vettesse’s Rebecca is a woman on the brink of a breakdown, her loneliness and upset palpable from the start. In stark contrast, Emily Wachter’s character, trapped in her house for over two years, is a spikey, energetic creation jumping across the stage, ripping up floorboards. And it is Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s complete control over an emerging, fragile sense of masculinity which is both striking and compelling. Every gesture – from the mannered and learned smoking to the masculine swagger – is measured and considered. The women playing these parts are masters at creating characters.

Despite the fact that all three characters are played by women, Smith handles gender roles and constructions with care and clarity. It is a play about necessary, difficult attempts to continue – to continue lives and loves – even when chaos turns the known on its head. Predominately well-written and wonderfully performed, Swallow is a striking and important piece of theatre.

Reviews by Joanna Bowman

Summerhall

I Gave Him an Orchid

★★★
Summerhall

Gods Are Fallen And All Safety Gone

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Tomorrow

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

'Who said smashing things up was a bad thing?' Balanced precariously on the tipping point, three strangers are about to face their demons head on. They might just be able to save one another if they can only overcome their urge to self-destruct. Painful yet playful, poignant but uplifting, this world premiere from Olivier Award-winning writer Stef Smith takes a long hard look at the extremes of everyday life. Questions of identity, heartbreak and hope are explored with vivid, poetic intensity. Directed by award-winning Traverse Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin, acclaimed for previous Festival hits Spoiling and Ciara. www.madeinscotlandshowcase.com

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Anything Goes

From £42.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets