Writer: Sadie Spencer and Tom Black
Director: George Chilcott
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Steven, Claire, Andy and Bobby are the last survivors in a globally warmed and flooded world. Adrift on a swan-shaped pedalo, the four strangers start to make plans for their post-apocalyptic world. Of course, they’re not exactly the people you’d hope to be stranded with at the end of the world. Steven (Ed MacArthur) is posh, entitled and not too bright. Andy (Tom Black) is a glass half empty intellectual. Claire’s (Nina Shenkman) that person we all know whose adventurous take on life and endless positivity quickly becomes excruciating. On the other hand, Bobby (Charlotte Merriam) is a ditzy, vegan (although not for long…) hippy.
So these twenty-somethings are the founders of the new world, a role they embrace, first with trepidation, and then with some enthusiasm. After they realise they can survive by killing and eating a swan with their bare hands and the blood-lust of Lord of the Flies, they figure they can do pretty much anything. They’ll create a world with no racism, no violence or hatred. There’ll be no religion, no destructive politics, nothing to fight wars over.
Swansong was DugOut Theatre’s 2016 Edinburgh show, where it earned them plenty of good reviews, so it’s no wonder it’s had a life beyond. It’s certainly the kind of production that you’d be delighted to find amongst the baffling range of shows at the Fringe – fast paced, funny, beautifully delivered and thought-provoking. And short – just fifty minutes long – fifty very compelling minutes. The cast are all great performers, comedians and can even sing, the show punctuated by a-cappella songs which form a sort of Greek tragedy chorus.
The four characters might be stereotypes, but they’re played with a lightness of touch and given a surprising amount of depth given the limited time the cast have to develop them. Ed MacArthur’s Steven is the lynchpin – demonstrating that baffling quality of leadership and assumption that comes with an expensive school education. MacArthur has great comic delivery. He has most of the best jokes too.
After almost an hour of punchy, non-stop, surreal action, we start to see glimpses of the world these four will create, perhaps not the enlightened, perfect world they had started to imagine, but one where all their quirks, and faults, and differences make for a much more complex society – one pretty much like the one they left behind. And then the show ends rather abruptly, and rather disappointingly. A twist would have been fun – or at least ending on a bigger laugh. For a play about the end of the world, it’s a surprisingly light and joyful experience, and the audience is certainly left wanting more.
Runs until 6 May 2017 | Image: Contributed