It is my objective and dream, when at the Edinburgh Fringe, to discover great new writing – plays that are just beginning to make their way onto the world's stages, at the forefront of contemporary drama. Swivelhead, presented by Pipeline Theatre at Pleasance 2, is no such play. Coming off the back of their robotic love story, Spillikin, at last year's Fringe, Pipeline's technological gimmick du jour is drone flight, and this is sadly about the only thing in this production that is taking off at all.

A play which shoots for magic realism and misses the mark.

Boasting one of the largest sets at this year's Fringe, Swivelhead claims to resonate with our current political and cultural climate, exploring the personal consequences of a new age of warfare. The plot centres around Paddy Atkinson-Ward (Ben Dyson), a repulsively privileged, middle-class man, who drives vintage cars, hates political correctness, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his typhoon days. Holed up in his childhood treehouse before his sister's wedding, Atkinson-Ward engages with the impossible, and seems to transform into an owl. If this seems a little incongruous to you, then you are right.

One can see the amount of care that has gone into this production – a substantial set, a complex, technical script, drone flight and a zipwire owl certainly require a lot of care and attention, and the cast (Dyson, Lewis Howard, and Juliet Welch) have clearly worked hard to create these characters, who are uncomfortably credible. Yet this cannot a great play make. At the heart of this piece is a script that is as illogical as it is reductive. A quasi-incestuous subplot and some feathery sleeves characterise this as a play which shoots for magic realism and misses the mark.

Next year, Pipeline Theatre would be well advised to focus less on theatrical technology than on their choice of script. 

Reviews by Ryan Hay

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The Blurb

Paddy used to fly Typhoons, till he got a dicky neck. Now he’s a drone pilot, with a new recruit to torment. But all is not well. Holed up in his old family tree house the night before his sister’s wedding, he realises something impossible: for the last few months he’s been turning into an owl. With graphic black humour, projection, real drone flying, an immersive soundscape, and one of the biggest sets on the fringe, Swivelhead viscerally explores the personal consequences of a new age of warfare.