Review: The Swallow (La Golondrina)

4 star rating
Minor gripes aside, compelling performances engage us for the duration in a tense and sometimes tearful drama that examines important issues.
The Swallow (La Golondrina)

Image: Cervantes Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 26 May 2018

Author:
Guillem Clua, translated by Tim Gutteridge

Composer:
Nico Casal

Director:
Paula Paz

Cast:

Spanish cast:


Amelia - Amparo Climent

Ramón - David Luque


English cast:


Emily - Jeryl Burgess

Ray - David Luque


Synopsis


Ray (Ramón) wants to work on his vocal technique before singing at the memorial service of his mother who has recently passed away.


He seeks out the help of Emily (Amelia), a strict singing teacher who runs classes from her home.


As the classes go on, the two characters begin to reveal details about their pasts, both of which have been significantly affected by a terrorist attack.


The true significance of this event forces them both to reflect on their identities up to such a point that they will end up forever united by a shared song for life.


Background


Spanish language performances/ Representaciones en español

From 30th April - 5th May Desde 30 de abril - 5 de mayo


English language performances/ Representaciones en inglés

From 7th May - 26th May Desde 7 de Mayo- 26 Mayo


Trailer



ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 26 April 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Guillem Clua's two hander starts with a deception perpetrated by David Luque's Ray.


Jeryl Burgess's Emily is a singing teacher who seems to specialise in working with professional performers - or at least those who have had rather more than basic training, and also have more than a hint of talent.


So, when Ray fetches up at her house asking for lessons, the sternly professional teacher immediately recognises that he has no previous training and promptly offers the name of a different teacher.


However, Ray's intentions seem to involve more than merely exercising his vocal chords since he is persistent in a way that suggests that it's this specific teacher who attracts him in some way.


As the story unfolds, we discover that Ray knew Emily's deceased son, Danny, and it's this connection that brings Ray into Emily's life.


It's more than mere friendship which links Ray to Danny, and their relationship sparks considerable tension in the often heated exchanges during the remainder of the piece.


Set in Emily's music room, Alejandro Andújar's well-ordered set features a piano and a substantial run of bookshelves, reflecting Emily's disciplined working practices and offering a backdrop of semi-formality which contrasts with the emotionally charged dialogue and character conflict that predominates.

The Swallow (La Golondrina) at the Cervantes Theatre

Image: Cervantes Theatre


It's hard not to watch this play without discerning echoes of Harvey Fierstein's award winning Torch Song Trilogy which premiered in 1982 and was turned into a powerful and entertaining film, released in 1988.


Though the overall plot in Torch Song is significantly different, it contains a lengthy scene between a mother and her son which highlights similar issues and themes as The Swallow, and both plays feature shocking and unexpected violence by unknown perpetrators which produce life-changing consequences that require exorcising.


Guillem Clua's drama has already had a run last year at the Cervantes Theatre, so this another opportunity to see it if you missed it the first time round.


And, like other plays at this venue, it comes packaged in both Spanish and English varieties with David Luque delivering his role in both.


The challenge of a single, fairly lengthy, uninterrupted scene that requires significant gear-changes, with many tension-laden moments, is met with skilful and believable performances from the two actors.


Jeryl Burgess's Emily is an intelligent woman with liberal values, who has had her share of tragedy in the past, having to bring up her son on her own after the early death of her husband.


Though professionally disciplined, she's nonetheless vulnerable and haunted by the untimely death of her son, and still needs comforting support at her church.


Ray's more radical view about the terrorist act that took her son's life, together with revelations about his relationship with Danny, force Emily to re-examine her relationship with her son.


I couldn't help wondering, though, just why it had taken Ray so long to get round to meeting Emily, given his obvious determination and strident opinions.


And the denouement, where Danny speaks to his mother from beyond the grave, felt not only a touch contrived and sentimental, but showed Ray in a rather bad light given he must have known Emily would have been suffering and had the means to ameliorate it.


Those minor gripes aside, compelling performances engage us for the duration in a tense and sometimes tearful drama that examines important issues.



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