Swansong

Fri 5th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Jessica Baxter

at 09:33 on 10th Aug 2016

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‘Swansong’ is a great piece of comic theatre about the events that occur on a modern-day Noah’s Ark. Instead of two-by-two, squabbling animals, however, there are two-by-two, squabbling friends, floating atop a vast ocean. And the ark is actually a human-powered pedalo in the shape of a swan. And there’s been an apocalypse.

Great fun with some great, genuine laughs, DugOut Theatre returns to the Fringe with an incredibly original and creative performance. The story follows four memorable and vastly different characters on board the only floating vessel left in the flooded world, and the resulting trials and tribulations of repopulation.

One health-obsessed spiritualist vegan, a gym freak, a grumbling pessimist and an upper-middle-class pseudo Jack Whitehall discover a diary and pen on board, and decide to produce lists of all things they miss, all those deceased and all the rules for the New World. They dip into hysteria, attempt to be civilised, complain about lost friends and dwell on the future.

Really poignant ideas are made during this conversation: the characters celebrate the fact that racism, war and poverty have now been eradicated. It raises questions from religion to the idea of dictatorship, creating the appearance of a cult with some interesting audience participation. The group verge on the edge of madness, at one point all madly chanting ‘David Attenborough’, over and over again as if to resurrect him. Jokes thread through the self-referential dialogue, and it is largely very effective.

There are several negative elements of the stage set up, however. For starters, I really strain to hear one of the actresses, even in the silence of the auditorium. The actors are not positioned well enough for everyone in the audience to see, so perhaps the cast could sit on an elevated platform.

This performance stands out because of its narrative: a lot of comedy shows don’t have a progressive enough plot. ‘Swansong’ is great because I not only enjoy the show’s humour, but I also want to know how the gang’s travels panned out. There is enough serious plot-line to flesh out the play into something more than a series of jokes, but equally enough jokes to lighten the serious plot-line. A comical and light-hearted Lord of the Flies, for adults.

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Emily Cole

at 18:05 on 10th Aug 2016

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In this post-apocalyptic world, an unlikely foursome in the form of Bobby, Ed, Andy and Claire are set to become the founding fathers for the new world, stuck in an even more unlikely safety net of a swan-shaped pedalo. A surreal plotline that certainly serves its challenges to perform with any conviction let alone level that is achieved by Dugout theatre, succeeding in presenting a thoroughly entertaining and comical piece that pushes the boundaries of conventional theatre.

Playing on stereotypes of various social groups, from a highly-strung, non-materialistic vegan to a Jack Whitehall type, public school generated ‘lad’, there is the very real potential of these characters being overplayed, with constant references to ‘top banter’ or making a vegan character embody an unbearable attitude of self-righteousness. However, this is very much not the case. When these roles teeter on the edge of being unfunny and predictable, they are quickly brought back by an unexpected event or a comment made from the supposed voice of reason, Andy. The balance between humour, drama, dance and song is nothing short of perfect. If the characters have the potential to be predictable, the plot certainly does not. Each twist and turn is executed such that it is genuinely hard to know what to expect. Perhaps an obvious statement to make considering the setting of pedalo in a post-apocalyptic world, but this marks another success of the theatre group – the ability to absorb the audience in such a way as to persuade us of the very realistic possibility of the occurrence unfolding before us.

This production also sparked an interesting debate about organized religion, democracy and our current culture, with the upper-middle class educated white male making jokes about how now this new world will not have sexism because now, women are 50% of the population. Scattered with eerie intermittent hymns based on the four’s survival journey to start their new world and writing a list of the ‘10 Suggestions’, this commentary on the foundations of society was both subtly and comically done to provide memorable sparks of debate to take with you as you leave the venue.

The fantastic chemistry between all four members allow them to take you on a thought-provoking, funny, visually and aurally entertaining journey, which makes this piece an unforgettable production of the Fringe.

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