Double Feature 2 - The Swan

D C Moore
National Theatre Paintframe

The Swan production photo

D C Moore likes his pubs. His last play, Honest, was set in one and so is his tragicomedy, The Swan.

The dishevelled Soutra Gilmour-designed pub thrusts its way into the audience and allows them to feel part of the rough and tumble that ensues in advance of the wake for its deceased publican, Michael.

In a tough part of London, an ill-matched grouping slowly assembles to mourn and remember a much-loved (in the love rat sense) man about whom the truth hurts all of those left behind.

They are a sad, defeated collection of losers portrayed by a superb ensemble, directed impeccably by Polly Findlay.

First, we meet the dead man's noisily bigoted father Jim. A greatly slimmed-down Trevor Cooper plays a man who epitomises loneliness. This sour character seems to have the foulest mouth imaginable but we soon learn that others can match him.

Jim has avoided his own son's funeral, which seems unforgivable but becomes understandable as he grieves in his own way and shows that his heart is in the right place.

Michael has left behind a whole host of shocks for the family. Jim does his best to protect both Michael's partner of twelve years, Sharon Duncan-Brewster's Christine, and also her teenaged daughter Denise, In this part, Pippa Bennett-Warner sensitively confirms the promise that she showed as Cordelia to Sir Derek Jacobi's Lear.

The catalyst for the revelations is Claire-Louse Cordwell's hilariously mouthy Amy, a cameo that lasts only minutes but deserves to be remembered.

The Swan may feel like a Bush play but works perfectly in this found space. It proves a great complement to Edgar and Annabel in yet another glorious evening for the National.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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