An Eternal Hexagon of Women
“She’s all icing and no cake”
Six actors plays three women, three are the younger incarnations of themselves, three are older. The theatre programme will not tell you who is who because that confusion is a part of the plot of Isley Lynn’s prize listed play. The Swell was shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Playwriting and viewing it you can see why.
The older women are Sophie Ward, Shuna Snow and Viss Ellliot Safavi, the younger, Jessica Clark, Ruby Crepin-Glyne and Saroja-Lily Ratnavel. The elder or younger characters will watch their other self from the corner of the stage. It is Jessica Clark as Flo (short for Emma!) who explains about her passion for surfing and the title of The Swell. She describes the companionship of surfing, how there must be other people there for safety, that you never go surfing alone. She also describes the travel, up sticks and off to an exciting swell. The pleasure she gets from surfing is orgasmic and her animation in recalling it, is infectious.
Flo is here for a marriage. One character describes her heart swelling with love so we have a parallel between the surfing heights of a wave and the feeling for some one else. Scenes chop in and out of the past and the present with Nicola T Chang’s specially composed music in between.
This play is so well written and directed you will keep concentrating as you try to pick up clues as to whom each actor is playing. The plot is such that it could only be played by Lesbians but its theme of love and fidelity applies across all sexual and romantic pairings.
What if your relationship is based on infidelity? What happens if you discover that? Do you walk away? I have long held that a difference between most men and most women is that men will generally cut off and leave a broken relationship to start again elsewhere, whereas a woman’s instinct is to mend, to repair and find again what brought them together. Of course this is generalisation with sexist thoughts applying to heterosexual pairings. The casting director’s decision (or it may be the writer’s or the director Hannah Hauer King’s) for the elder and younger women not to resemble each other, makes the task for the audience more complex.
Sophie Ward is a fine actor and her younger Bel (Ruby Crepin-Glyne) is also appealing. I very much liked Jessica Clark’s flighty and charismatic Flo and found it harder to like the stiffness of Shona Snow as Annie. Of course Annie’s awkwardness has a root cause.
This play is a fine analysis of the human condition.
Written by Isley Lynn
Directed by Hannah Hauer-King
Viss Elliot Safavi
Director: Hannah Hauer-King
Designer: Amy Jane Cook
Composer: Nicola T Chang
Lighting Designer: Elliot Griggs
Sound Designer: Nicola T Chang
Fight and Intimacy: Bethan Clark
Running Time: 90 minutes without an interval
Booking to 29th July 2023
Orange Tree Theatre
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Orange Tree
on 30th June 2023