Swan Song

5
Seen at the Turbine Theatre
By Derek

This is a very enjoyable one-man show which is packed with camp one-liners. Small but perfectly formed, Swan Song is a bittersweet comedy written by Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Closer To Heaven). Harvey adapted the 65-minute play specially for Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street, The Bill, Cilla The Musical) to play the role of Dave Titswell.

In Liverpool in 1997, the world is changing and in the staff room, gay forty-something, English teacher Dave finds that not all change is welcome. He has a crush, but life, love, and work are never straight forward. A school trip to The Lakes brings challenge to his cosy life.

It is a simple show, with one actor, a table, a couple of chairs and some prop dressing. What makes it so good is the cracking script and impeccable delivery. Noreen Kershaw (Call The Midwife, Moving On, Coronation Street) directs the show with subtle flair, allowing Lancel to own his space and relish his bitchy commentary. At the beginning the jokes come at ridiculous pace, only slowing a little as Harvey develops the story. Jokes referring to Montgomery Cliff and Max Bygraves may be outside the experience of younger audience members, but they are a small part of this rich world of the frustrated staff room.

Brief references to political events place scenes in different years and establish Titswell’s socialist beliefs while he learns that his mistrust of all Tories may not be justified. Lancel creates a thoroughly credible and likeable character and times the comedy perfectly.

While we laugh at his wit, we sympathise with his sadness at feeling passed by: “first rule of teaching – do not grow old!” The revelation that the old dog can still bite brings a touching end to a jewel of a show.

Derek Benfield


 
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