Review: Swansong (Red Line Productions)

redlineproductionsVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Dec 1 – 5, 2015
Playwright: Connor McDermottroe
Director: Greg Carroll
Cast: Andre de Vanny

Theatre review
Occi is a young man in Ireland, suffering from mental illness and an uncontrollable tendency for violence. He does have moments of tranquillity though, and in between those two extremes, we discover qualities of a complex character that simultaneously repulses and attracts us. It is a tale about isolation, and therefore a statement about community. The monsters that live amongst us are cultivated by the forces surrounding them, and our complicity in the development of people like Occi must be examined. Connor McDermottroe’s Swansong may not contain people or places that we can easily relate to, but it is ultimately an exploration into human nature that we can all understand.

The play is structured with ample amounts of intrigue and tension built into an absorbing plot line that incorporates a satisfying string of revelations and surprises. It offers little insight or new perspectives into its concerns, but the writing provides extraordinary scope for a dynamic staging that can range from very quiet to very wild, within the sometimes restrictive monologue format. Director Greg Carroll and actor Andre de Vanny’s seamless collaboration focuses entirely on the performance of the piece. The production comes without a set design or props, and there is no sound design. Relying only on a simple costume and occasional lighting changes, Swansong is a mighty tour de force featuring an indisputable talent and his boundless energy and commitment. What de Vanny brings to the stage is faultlessly executed. Voice, face and body are operated at capacity, with a sense of euphoria that can only come with total abandonment. Nothing is kept in reserve, and the audience can only respond with an earnestness parallel to the show’s thorough and powerful vulnerability.

Occi’s life is full of struggles, but Swansong is not interested in our sympathies. We are free to look and judge him how we will, as we are want to do in our every day, but our eyes are opened to the experiences of an unusual existence, one that has tasted extremities that thankfully elude many of us. At the theatre, we seek our reflections, but what can be equally rewarding, is to catch a glimpse of some strange life that will never touch us otherwise. Our individual worlds can often be too small, and art is the antidote.