Swan Bake

What do you get when an impressionable young writer moves into a London squat with a couple of crack addict ballerinas and a pack of rats? Swan Bake! This mash-up of song, dance, theatre and puppetry is definitely not a show for kids. It’s as trippy and drug-addled as its cast- three characters who are all addicted to a narcotic substance represented by blowing bubbles. The more bubbles that flew around the theatre, the crazier their behaviour became.

The more bubbles that flew around the theatre, the crazier their behaviour became

There’s a drug abusing ballerina, a lesbian nun- played by a man as “there just aren’t enough parts for young white males”- and a corrupt Bishop, not to mention a sadomasochistic, pleather bound, black swan and a giant rat dressed as the Pope. Then there are the puppets; one of the funniest scenes in the play is a monologue by a powder-munching, paranoid mannequin who worries about over-abusing and the fact that it doesn’t have a nose.

The show does has a narrative among the drug taking and bad behaviour. It tells of Bell and Maria who are in love but must escape the blackmailing clutches of Father Rupert, along with the drugs, the church, the rat-pope and the violin gun, before they can find true happiness.

Writer/director Samson Hawkins manages to make the audience feel as though they are on a drug infused evening of chaos and we were actively encouraged to indulge in our own spot of bubble blowing. Lucie Shorthouse gives an energetic, yet strangely sympathetic, performance as the beleaguered, Brummie, ballerina Bell and the mad nun Maria is played to good cockney, comic effect by James Whattkins.

The most frenetic character is that of Father Rupert, played by a grinning, sweaty, crazy-eyed Alex Stevens. With some desultory observations on the corruption of the Catholic Church, the negative representation of plus sized people and rigidly structured lives breaking free in the most anarchic ways imaginable, this play pushes the boundaries and feels intensely original.

There are some truly hilarious and ingenious flashes in Swan Bake but there is so much lunacy, it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. The cast all give totally committed performances, although it does feel like Swan Bake was written the morning after the wildest of nights before. If you haven’t seen anything truly bonkers in this year’s Fringe, then head to the Warren for a totally unusual, anarchic theatrical experience.

Reviews by Christine Kempell

Underbelly, Bristo Square


Pleasance Courtyard

Emma Sidi: Faces of Grace

theSpace @ Jurys Inn

The Big Lie

Underbelly, George Square

Siblings: Acting Out

Rialto Theatre

Martin Lingus

Brighton Spiegeltent / Rialto Theatre





The Blurb

“I’m really angry at my parents for letting me follow my dreams, because now I can’t get a job.” A boldly original comedy with a multi-role cast of three which splices stand-up, puppetry, shouty songs and dancey bits to tell the story of a drug addicted ballerina. Hence Swan 'Bake', get it? No? Oh.