Thursday 25 December 2014

Theatre Review: Swing at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dublin

John McKeown

Published 12/06/2014 | 02:30

Janet Moran and Steve Blount in 'Swing'
Janet Moran and Steve Blount in 'Swing'

It's smile or die at the evening dance class for May, a forty-year-old woman with a talent for picking the wrong man. Joe has his share of problems too. "I'm fifty. I lost the house, the wife, and the business. I'm living in a bedsit. I'm a country and western song."

Joe is struggling but still smiling and urges May to do the same. After all, repeatedly picking the wrong guy is just like repeatedly bumping your head against a wall, just dust yourself down and keep on bumping, or as this terpischorean Norman Vincent Peale has it: "you've got to do-dee-do."

Joe likening himself to a country and western song is about as witty as this inoffensive, unimaginative, simplistic, soft-focus playlette penned by Janet Moran, Steve Blount, Gavin Kostick and director Peter Daly gets. Joe is a big straight-talking teddy bear of a man, while May, though a little wary and later, a bit impatient, is made of the right stuff too. The other characters are all standard-issue lovably loud and opinionated Dubs, all gamely returning week after week to perfect their Lindy Hop and Charleston, and learn to pogo with positivity. Even Imelda and 'Stinky Bins' overcome his BO problem and start dating.

The triteness, or rather 'warmth' as some critics have called it, is satisfyingly offset by Blount and Moran's performances. The pair play all the roles, switching character with a brisk "change partners" and for a rather long hour, hardly stop dancing.

The two dance teachers who, for some unaccountable reason continually vent their hatred for each other in class, introduce the new steps, and the various mismatched couples chat, cha-cha and back-stab.

The constant dancing distracts from the lack of comedic substance, while Blount, who can spark humour from any dry old verbal sticks, generates plenty of laughs. The pair work up a real sweat and the closing sequence, with Joe and May emotionally in step, is quite slick.

As a novelty piece it has its attraction, and Daly does an effective job of directorial choreography, but the show is far too light on its feet. Feelgood doesn't have to be featherweight. A little suspense would have helped too. As it is, we can see that Joe and May are going to see toe to toe in the end. More tiresomely predictable is the Polish migrant with the incomprehensible accent. No new play set in Dublin seems able to get by without its token Pole 'going native' and there's one here to verbally perplex our Joe. Yes, foreign accents are absolutely hilarious aren't they?

Irish Independent

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