Sometimes we’re too afraid of looking like an eejit to fully embrace life: whether it’s not standing up for something you believe in, or being too shy to ask out the handsome barista, or resisting the dance floor when a Kylie classic roars on. Irish company Fishamble takes this idea and applies it to two damaged individuals who are brave enough to give swing dancing a go. The result is a tender slice of life drama which blends theatre and dance to create a transcendently beautiful experience.
It would be criminal not to lavish praise on the central performances of Steve Blount and Janet Moran.
Swing really is exceedingly lovely in every way. Move past the always irresistible Irish charm, reminiscent of other local works such as Once, and the main way the show achieves the loveliness is through its mastery of naturalistic dialogue. Naturalistic dialogue is the downfall of many potentially excellent pieces, but here is an excellent reminder of how powerful it can be when done well. Joe and May cover a lot of ground in their wandering conversations on love, regret and purpose in middle-age, all the while contending with the more pressing matters of Lindyhop, Charleston, and figuring out what to do with your damn arms. From time to time there was a chance for the script to play slightly with its strict pre-rehearsal, rehearsal, post-rehearsal formula, but sticking to this formula did create an intimate and realistic atmosphere in which the drama could unfold.
It would be criminal not to lavish praise on the central performances of Steve Blount and Janet Moran. They play all the supporting characters as well, carrying the show, and making it the utter joy that it is. Aided by the script (to which Blount and Moran also contributed), all the characters feel lived in and bracingly real. The real innovation here is how the actors subtly change the quality of the dancing to reflect the character they’re playing, to the extent that after a while you know which eccentric dancer is about to unleash themselves on poor Joe and May before they even open their mouths.
Lighting this kind of naturalistic drama is an incredibly difficult endeavour as it requires the ability to quietly compliment the nuances of the script. Swing is blessed with a particularly nice venue in Dance Base and Mark Galione takes full advantage of this in his lighting design, which makes clear the transition between characters and is visually arresting in its own right.
The play is lovely. Lovely. It’s also funny… but mainly it’s lovely. Try Swing. You’d really be an eejit not to.