Tue 27 May 2014
Jiggling awkwardly at the back of a dance class, completely off the beat and on a different page to the other students, trying desperately to hide your failure to ‘get it’… it’s a grim feeling, characterized by a sense of inadequacy, confusion, and dislocation. It’s also an apt analogy for how it can feel when your life stalls or derails and you find yourself at a loss on the sidelines as everyone else swiftly passes you by.
‘Swing’, which opened on the Peacock stage last night, introduces us to two such stalled characters, Joe and May (played by the vibrant Steve Blount and Janet Daly), two tropes of contemporary Dublin brought together through a swing dancing class.
May is new to the style and her bumbling beginner’s steps and self-conscious, arm-rubbing forays into the basics of the Lindy Hop mirror a deeper uncertainty about her life in general. Joe is her cheerful and seemingly carefree mentor in the class, his outwardly chipper aspect belying his own personal difficulties.
Though Blount and Daly are the only two performers on stage, they fill the space with a cacophonous tumult of Dublin life. With each partner change (shrilly called by the class instructors), we’re introduced to a different pair of characters.
A whole host of Dublin caricatures is here, from the strident tones of what could be a Moore street vendor to a Spanish ex-pat whose Latin-inflected mid-dance patter is peppered with Dublinese. And then there are the instructors themselves, prime examples of the deranged teacher figure, barely concealing their ill-temper and impatience behind strained smiles and gratingly bright voices.
Joe and May’s stories are told in installments, in snatches of conversation in between partner swaps or during the social dance after the class ends. A bubbling sub-plot woven from the minor intrigues of the other students provides the background for their burgeoning romance, a romance stalled by both their own uncertainties and circumstances.
A warm-hearted and chuckle-inducing story set in a carefully current Dublin (the dreaded recession is foregrounded through references to job loss and emigration), ‘Swing’ pictures the birth of an unlikely relationship between two likeable characters, whose tentative steps towards each other are charmingly paralelled with their discovery of the joy of dance.
'Swing' runs on the Peacock stage at The Abbey until May 31st - get tickets here.
Written by Steve Blount, Peter Daly, Gavin Kostick, and Janet Moran
Directed by Peter Daly