Sunday, 28 March 1999

The Swan, 28 March 1999

 by Elizabeth Egloff
The Old Van at The Pavillion, Central Springs Reserve,  Daylesford Lake
to April 10, 1999
Reviewer: KATE HERBERT on 28 March, 1999

See The Old Van's production of The Swan at Daylesford Lake but take a hot water bottle as your guest. Autumn can be icy in Daylesford and there are no real walls to protect you from the chill wind blustering around The Pavillion. This extraordinary location, with its accompanying waterbird cries, reinforces the company's policy to mark the passing of the seasons

The Old Van was nominated for four Green Room Fringe Theatre awards for its winter production of Brian Friel's Faith Healer in 1998 and company member, Jane Nolan, won Best Female Performer award. Director, Fiona Blair, has chosen another challenging and evocative script: American playwright, Elizabeth Egloff's dream-like, The Swan which owes something to Leda and The Swan for its violent love themes.

"The Bird is the symbol of the soul's release from bondage to the earth," wrote Joseph Campbell, Jungian interpreter of myths. Egloff's fable trips boundaries between reality and myth, opens doors between human and creature worlds, blurs lines around acceptable love and challenges our view of ourselves and relationships.

Lolita has nothing on a play about a woman with a swan lover. Dora (Jane Nolan) lives alone in quiet despair after two husbands abandoned her and another shot himself. She tolerates her present married lover, Kevin, (Richard Bligh) but awaits her great love.

It arrives in the form of a wild swan (Rohan Jones) that slams into her window and lies unconscious until it awakens in her home, a fully formed, beautiful, awkward, naked and unquestionably male. Dora stops working to tend the injured bird that slowly begins to walk, talk, respond, philosophise and to adore her with a wild, undaunted passion. Swans mate for life, don't they?

Nolan's pivotal performance as Dora is compelling. She captures her vulnerability, despair and passion and delivers both comic and poetic lines with impeccable timing and intelligence. Bligh is suitably gauche and intrusive as the oafish Kevin who contrasts with the elegance and initial silence of Bill.

Jones' first appearance as the Swan is riveting and his physical manifestation of the bird is powerful but his attempts to interpret Egloff's more poetic text are clumsy and diminish the magical quality of the character. There are some awkward and unclear scene changes but Blair's actor-centred directorial style is successful.

Make a night of it with dinner at the Lake Restaurant as a compulsory part of your treat.

K Herbert

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