Wednesday, 23 October 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: Swallow - The Garrick Playhouse, Altrincham.

Steph Smith’s play ‘Swallow’ is a poetic masterpiece which was premiered at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival. In true Edinburgh style the play is only one hour in length but covers a multitude of issues cleverly and at a fast pace, without drowning in its own misery. Being a ‘three hander’ play, the script is hefty for such a small cast but moved with an energy which felt much more like you were watching a piece of professional theatre...but that is something I have come to expect from the Altrincham Garrick productions.

The play examines three extremely damaged women and how they deal with what life has thrown at them. Complex issues from mental health to gender fluidity and domestic violence are dealt with head-on but with such a lightness of touch, it almost shocks you when you find yourself shedding a tear at the emotion of it. The play begins as a series of monologues which interweave with one another until two of the characters eventually meet and form friendships. It is a social commentary about people existing but never really interacting with one another and there is a sense that by the end of the play when the characters talk to one another, many of their issues are resolved.

Director, Parissa Zamanpour’s artistic vision for this piece is wonderful. The incredible set design looked, on first glance like a hodgepodge of items thrown into a heap and littered with fairy lights but were in fact a beautiful metaphor for the chaotic lives of the central characters. Use of this intricate design created a fabulous backdrop to this high energy performance and the pace of the wonderful script and the talent of the three actresses on stage were clearly testament to great direction.

Portia Dobbs’ portrayal of the mentally ill and housebound Anna was mesmerising to watch. Every tiny nuance of her character had been brilliantly thought through with believability and a lovely sense of humour. Alex Marie Edge had an incredible sense of naturalism in her acting style and I could watch her perform all day. And Hannah Weiner dealt with her gender storyline of Sam with complete pathos and credibility. Three wonderful performers who I would love to see on stage again.

Altrincham Garrick have a steady stream of brilliant productions to entertain their wide and varied audiences and this production was no exception to the rule. Performed in the close quarters of the Lauriston Studio theatre with a capacity of less than 50, this tiny theatre space felt intimate but didn’t scrimp on the quality of production. However, if I was to offer any criticism at all it would be that the breakdown of set from last week’s main stage production could be clearly heard from above the space during the performance. . .but that would be picky! Sparrow is a powerful play acted superbly and directed with wonderful attention to detail.

Reviewer - Johanna Hassouna-Smith
on - 21/10/19

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