NEXT SWAN DOWN THE RIVER MIGHT BE BLACK
by Sean Burn
Tour to 29 March 2012.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Review: William Russell 9 February at Tara Theatre Earlsfield London.
The action of this deeply felt three-hander takes place in a psychiatric institution. Cerys (Maria Thomas) who suffers from depression and self-harms, and Kay (Helen Embleton), bipolar and subject to terrifying mood swings, are the inmates sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Zee (Ambur Khan) is the Pakistani trainee nurse looking after them.
Sean Burn’s writing is colourful and strong, and each woman is given some powerful speeches to explain why they are who they are and where they are. Embleton is sparkling as the feisty Geordie struggling to fight back at a world she sees as hostile, and Thomas is very touching as the younger, even more vulnerable Cerys.
The role of Zee, who has problems of her own, is less rewarding, but Khan, after a slightly sticky start, which probably has a lot to do with the initial, sometimes clunky, speeches she is given, is a match for both of them in the end.
An interesting look at mental illness, the play has been decently directed by Jackie Fielding, although the cacophony of jungle birdsong with which the evening opens seems to go on interminably and to labour the point that these people are caged.
But the real trouble with the play is the plot. The characters are nicely defined, the words are good, the developing friendships under stress beautifully delineated, but about ten minutes in one knows exactly how it is all going to end, the tram-rails have been laid down. The women are all at a crossroads in their lives, but we should doubt which turning they will take and we don’t. We know.
Kay: Helen Embleton.
Cerys: Maria Thomas.
Zee: Anbur Khan.
Director: Jackie Fielding.
Designer: Simon Henderson.
Lighting: Kev Tweedy.
Sound/Composer: Gareth Mitchell.