Ever since his “brilliant turn” (BBC reviewer, as quoted in the publicity material) in a youth production at the York Theatre Royal in 2008, Swanton has excelled as a supporting actor.  It is impossible to find an unkind critical word about him.  But he excels in this one man show, as he evokes supporting characters with vivid narration and class acting.  The audience is invited to perceive the surrounds of Paris, the people, the noise, the architecture and its smells, all through a single character.  For any actor, let alone a student amateur, to engage an audience successfully on his own for over an hour deserves the greatest plaudits and bigger audiences.

'Swanton waits on stage as the audience take their seats'Helen Cahill

Swanton waits on stage as the audience take their seats.  His make-up is chilling grotesque.  By beginning in the shadows, giving the audience only a side on view at best through the opening lines, the full reveal of his appearance is strikingly dramatic.  Even from six inches away in the front row, I couldn’t work out exactly how it had been done, but the result was definitely unsettling.  The lighting is equally well thought out, as Vicky Green introduced extra lights to the Playrooms to give excellent variation, reflecting the mood of each section.  Sometimes the changes felt a little too abrupt, but the mood created by each setting was perfectly appropriate and complemented the play’s undulating atmosphere and tempo.

It is the way Swanton conducts himself on stage that capped all this.  I am not sure what exactly an Associate Director does, but John Haidar may well deserve some credit for this creation.  Every twitch of Swanton’s face and hands, and for that matter every aspect of his performance, is convincing and captivating.  His speech pattern is too predictable at times – a pause for a gulp or swallow more often than not comes before the last word of a sentence – but it is mostly effective.  From the happy if perversely jolly to the emotionally broken, Swanton conveys every pitch of feeling in an engrossing and compelling manner.

Publicity man Edward Ouekett needs to pull his weight to improve audience numbers – I haven’t received a flier, nor do I recall seeing a poster for this play.  Hopefully word will get around, because it would be a shame for people to miss such a well-produced and talented piece of acting because they don’t know that it’s on.

Sponsored links