DramaReviewSite-SpecificSouth West

Swarm – Bute Town History and Arts Centre, Cardiff

Director: Abdul Shayek
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions

Swarm takes its name from that now infamous statement by David Cameron, “You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life.” However, this company-devised, site-specific play turns the current situation on its head. The West is destroying itself with war and civilians, fearing for their lives, are escaping to the East. The audience becomes refugees, thrust into a camp as they seek passage to safety. It is an interesting concept with much potential.

Swarm lacks the atmosphere and edginess to evoke any feelings of fear or panic. Many of the attempts to create this are little more than a mild inconvenience – wear a blanket, take off the blanket, take a number, hand in the number – and do not ring true as being close to anything that a refugee would experience. We find ourselves in lock down yet there are no sound effects to hint at the destruction and dangers of war that are supposedly occurring just outside. We are told that things are desperate with no food or medical supplies yet biscuits are offered around, the children have toys and plentiful paper to draw on with felt tip pens that actually work.

The promenade element of Swarm is not managed to ensure the audience gets the full experience. Segments of performance are lost to parts of the group due to bad positioning and other elements we are ushered past too quickly to digest.

The cast gives their all but that cannot make up for the flaws in the script; the undercover reporter that openly introduces herself to everyone she meets as a journalist, the flustered doctor who spends more time panicking than actually treating people, the blurred lines between the characters that have just arrived and those that have been at the centre for some time. In spite of strong performances throughout, there is not enough substance or reality in this devised piece to truly connect or empathise with any of the characters.

The strongest element of Swarm is the community cast. The adults playing the guards are faultlessly emotionless and dismissive, instilling an uneasiness that the rest of the piece lacks. The children are incredible and flawlessly deliver hard hitting messages that make the audience question what our children are learning from the current political climate – thought-provoking and haunting performances.

Runs until 14 August 2016 | Image: Contributed

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Strong concept, falls short

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