Swansong - Theatre Review

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

André de Vanny in Swansong.
Photo by Yure Covich.

The Australian Theatre Company's solo show Swansong, written by Connor McDermottroe, currently playing at the Skylight Theater, Los Feliz, guts all ideas about who is worthy of redemption and under what circumstances. Melbourne (Australia) Fringe Co-Founder Greg Carroll directs a gritty, harrowing story of a man utterly eviscerated, searching for acceptance, forgiveness and redemption. When you have no shot in life, can you ever be whole?

Growing up as the son of an unwed mother in 1960s Ireland takes its toll on a gentle-hearted, innocent, fatherless Austin 'Occi' Byrne who faces his young life through a never-ending onslaught of brutality in one form or another, from a small-minded and unforgiving community, just for being born.

Abused, isolated and vulnerable, Occi falls through the cracks of life and as he does, descends into uncontrollable violence and occasional stays at the local sanatorium, to escape the torment of ridicule for being a 'dirty little bastard'.

One has to wonder why a young unmarried, abandoned woman, who once escaped to England to bear her child, with the help of good people, would return to a small town to live a Scarlet Letter life. But she does, and the mental & emotional harm it causes Occi eventually plays itself out in a singular violent act that Occi will never be free of.

Played to contemporary perfection, actor André de Vanny lets loose a vocal and physical stratum of volcanic emotion from incorruptible purity to agonizing sorrow to disturbing compulsion, embodying every molecule of a joyful, simple boy who will never escape his own inner turmoil, his physical environment, and the guilt he bears for the irrevocable damage he has effected.

André de Vanny in Swansong.  Photo by Yure Covich.
André de Vanny in Swansong.
Photo by Yure Covich.
There are no easy answers in this play. De Vanny lays himself bare to the core in this performance exposing Occi's minute to minute inner state, presenting the audience with an opportunity to turn judgement on its ear and understand violence through compassion.

Occi has been created by cause and effect. His Pavlovian actions and reactions to childhood triggers are the byproduct of the brutal social moralities of the times in which he is raised. But the questions always remain, "Does he have a choice?" "Could he have made different decisions, not acted out the violence?" "Could he have controlled himself?" "Can we be made accountable for all that we do when the odds of life are totally stacked against us?"

Swansong is a stunningly beautiful, muscular play that tears at the heart and pounds on the emotions.

Very Highly Recommended.

Swansong plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm. Sundays at 2pm and Mondays at 8pm through October 7 at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA 90027. Tickets are $15 - $32. Reservations: (866) 811-4111, or SkylightTix.com

Posted By Tracey Paleo on September 17, 2018 11:22 am | Permalink