Aug 2-28 : C Royale (14.40)
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
So let the games begin. It is a brave director who lets a reviewer in to their first fringe show, but then nothing much has ever really phased the creator of Swan Bake, Samson Hawkins. In a recent interview with the Mumble he described his personal battles with drug-addiction that form the frantic & fascinating bedrock of the play;
I used to take quite a lot drugs. And I wrote the play as I wanted to stop, but didn’t really know how. There is a point when you are trying to give up when you just realise how hard being high is sometimes. I saw one of my teachers in Tesco but I was hallucinating at the time and it was really hard not to just slap him in the face and run away.
With him are the young & vibrant London-based ‘Second Sons‘ company, whose origins Samson describes as being, ‘my third-year housemates formed the company in our 3rd year of Italia Conti to make ‘Theatre for people who don’t like theatre’. With Samson operating behind the scenes, its is up to Kate Dolan, who plays a drug-addled ballet dancer, Shannon Giles, the shabby chic Catholic nun, & Alex Stevens, a sexually excessive & rather shouty priest, to paint for us the vivid pictures Samson so clearly sees – or has seen in some moment of grand psychedelia. The play does contain the rudiments of a story, which are kind of enjoyable, but Swan Bake’s merits revolve around the subtle willy-wonka-wackiness of addiction to ‘Nonce’ a drug whose moments of initial ingested-wonder are represented by blowing bubbles from a child’s bubble-bottle.
As we are led – rather enthusiastically as it turns out – through the dreamscapes of Mr Hawkins, we find that the true jewel of this play is the poetical, philosophical, observational script. Somehow Samson managed to survive the wasted-lands with enough wits about him to record the darkest & wildest moments with some accuaracy; a modern-day Dante, only this Hell is the concentric cycles of getting fuc£ed up on drugs. There is an eloquent intelligence to everything the characters say, with some genuinely piss-funny one-liners that seemed to arrive in chunks & shows a potential future avenue for Hawkins’ undeniable talent, as in;
When was the last time you took me out?’ ‘ ‘We went to Big Tesco yesterday!
We can’t go on a walk without a dog, that’s what paedos do!
I became a lesbian to specifically avoid the penis – its so aggressive!
I’ve got rapey eyes, which is really unfair coz I’m not even a raper
When you add the script to the curious, carnival atmosphere of the acting, you get something of an instant classic, altho’ it is far too early to suggest such a thing, of course. Each of our players seldom let the vibe down, & showed chemistry in every scene that they must have forged during their time as ‘Second Sons.‘ Alex Stevens combustulated like a young Rik Mayall, while the two ladies acted like kaleidoscopic courtesans to Hawkins’ muse, delivering their comedy & parody & puppetry at a perfect pitch. We also have the set-piece scenes – no spoilers of course – but the nightmare vignette is especially pleasing; splurging along as it does in a psychotic pirouette of music, masks & madness.
Unashamedly sexy & off-its-face, Swan Bake is… well, it is what is, & that’s very good indeed; a jovial & delinquent spitfire which strafes the stage with magical bullets of sheer theatrical brilliance. Indeed, its final dramatic scenes are just as exciting as a fighter-plane crashing & exploding in the sea!
Reviewer: Damian Beeson Bullen