Swan Song – Turbine Theatre, London

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Writer: Jonathan Harvey

Director: Noreen Kershaw

 What do you make of a life where every decision and conversation needs an internal justification? Not progressed in your career? Well, you’re just too dedicated to the craft to give it up for management. Slow romantic life? Too busy with work. Very few friends, one of whom can’t remember your name? That may be a little more difficult.

This solo play spools out a moving narrative charting a difficult period of change for gay Liverpool teacher of 25 years experience Dave Titswell. We catch him in the act of constructing and refurbishing his emotional walls, defensive against a professional and personal life that’s leaving him behind. Through this funny, charismatic piece of writing we are shown a complex portrait of the character; Dave is someone with whom we can empathise, cheer on and pity.

With his school seeking new blood and fresh ideas he faces an influx of energetic and influential young teachers. One of them, married former music biz man Ed, seems to present an opportunity for more than just a professional relationship, so a school trip to The Lakes holds promise. If that unspoken promise is broken, however, what might a scorned man do?

Jonathan Harvey first gave this play to the world in 1997 with Rebecca Front as the lead, adapting it for Andrew Lancel to take Dave on a few years ago. Dave is a funny, bitchy, parochial guy with a catty streak. Lancel is a joy in the role, dripping old jokes (“if she had a brain cell it’d be lonely”) perfectly and generating real warmth, alongside showing the darker and more pitiable side of this timidly aggressive man.

Deciding to end the story where it does is a wildly frustrating, but an understandable and creative, move. Like the final scene of The Sopranos every possibility is left open. In solidarity with Dave we’re destined to have no closure. It’s an ending that ensures we think about this interesting, inconsequential, nervy man and his well -crafted and charismatic story well into the future.

Runs until 4 December 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Funny, charismatic piece of writing

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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