Show: Swan Song
Location: Bombed Out Church, Liverpool
Date: Wednesday September 8th 2021
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Age Rating: 14+
Performer: Andrew Lancel
Production Company: Bill Elms Associates
Writer: Jonathan Harvey
Director: Noreen Kershaw
This is our theatre review for Swan Song at Liverpool‘s Bombed Out Church. Now, this is the tenth show of Liverpool Theatre Festival 2021 and here’s what we thought!
Swan Song: a metaphorical phrase for a final performance given just before death or retirement. (From the belief that swans sing a beautiful song just before their death since they have been silent for most of their lifetime.)
Set in Liverpool in 1997, against a changing political and educational system, the play breaks the fourth wall as Dave talks about his love of ‘chalk-face’ teaching (he has more than one ‘first rule of teaching’), his ability to be ‘down with the kids’ and his stagnant love life; with two failed relationships behind him, he now has a crush on another staff member & is struggling to maintain his dignity as he approaches middle age. Dave is confessional, funny, philosophical, somewhat misogynistic & full of malapropisms (his reference to the perfume ‘Anus Anus’ drew hoots from the audience).
A school trip to the Lake District holds some promise for Dave – and his re-enactment of the torrid events that take place there are slapstick-funny – but the play ducks easy resolutions & Dave becomes an unusual & brave creature, in that his swan song is an increasingly poignant one of acceptance and compromise as he alternately deflects and displays his vulnerability.
The revival of this one-man play, almost a year from when it was performed as part of the Liverpool Theatre Festival, is back at LTF by popular demand.
Back in 1997, Jonathan Harvey’s monologue premiered at Edinburgh and the Hampstead Theatre – when the central character was called Di Titswell and was played by Rebecca Front. This time Andrew Lancel (best known from his stint as a Corrie villain & for his acclaimed stage performances as Brian Epstein) plays the still unfortunately monikered (Dave) Titswell – a Socialist gay teacher in his forties, with a waspish tongue (echoing writer Harvey’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ creation, failing gay actor Tom Farrell).
Lancel’s performance turns artfully on a sixpence and he single-handedly creates a tapestry of characters and events in an animated, Frankie Howard camp style which has a vaudevillian edge and a tragic, subtle undercurrent; the high energy disco music punctuating the scenes, show the repression and letting go of dreams of romance and aspiration. Lancel is riveting – by turns raucous and wistful – as he inhabits perfectly the sad yet smart-mouthed and brittle Dave.
Noreen Kershaw’s delicate, precise & nuanced direction means every movement, pause and change of vocal tone and emphasis is captured perfectly and all the elements land exactly where they should.
If this play enjoys another revival & tour (which I fully expect it will) you really need to see it. And take tissues.
Target Audience: Adults, appropriate for 14 years +
Content: Infrequent Strong Language & Sex References
Overall Rating: 9/10
(By Tracy Ryan)
Swan Song Further Links
Liverpool Theatre Festival continues at the Bombed Out Church until Sunday September 12th 2021. So, to purchase tickets for any of those shows, please click here.
Did you see Swan Song? Let us know by leaving a comment below!