Inis Nua Theatre Company ends the 2016-2017 mainstage season with the American premiere of Swallow by Stef Smith. From Scotland, Swallow follows three lives intricately connected and the quiet, traumatic struggles of being human. Swallow was a 2015 Fringe First Winner and received the Scottish Arts Club Theatre Award. The Scotsman called the play, “An elegant and glowing piece of twenty-first century magic realism.” Swallow opens at the Proscenium Theater at The Drake (302 South Hicks Street) on April 28th, with preview performances on April 26th and 27th.
Beautiful and wrenching, Swallow brings us three characters whose lives are taking drastic turns. Anna feels a bit of herself fall away every day. Rebecca teeters on the edge after a breakup, wondering who she is on her own. Sam wants to step forward to meet the future, coming to terms with his gender identity. Their stories intertwine — delicately looping together then flying apart. These three strangers’ fragile connections with each other might lead to a shift in their worlds.
“Each of these three characters’ experiences are deeply important to them,” said Swallow Director Claire Moyer. “Every day they are fighting for their lives. I really liked the idea that these things that are so desperately huge to us as individuals can be completely unapparent to people on the outside.”
Aside from watching TV, Anna cannot face life outside her apartment. Denying herself speech, food and any connection to others, she pours her energy and anxiety into mosaic projects using the remnants of her life. Smashing mirrors and crockery is an efficient distraction from what feels deeply wrong inside. Rebecca is doing her share of smashing things too…her longtime lover has left her but didn’t take the TV. Her self-mutilation is a monument to the old life she built, but also to her loneliness and anger. Sam’s leaving someone behind too. He is getting ready to jump a chasm he has been staring at his whole life—he is leaving behind the gender he was assigned at birth to live fully as himself, as Sam. Anna, Rebecca and Sam change, struggle, screw up, pull back and reach out. But most of all, they continue.
Smith prefaces the script with a 1937 quote from Frida Kahlo: “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
The Independent said Swallow was “…a piece which is so beautifully measured, so transporting, that it takes us inside these characters’ experience of measuring up to what society expects from them in captivating, universal and often emotionally battering detail.” Moyer describes Stef Smith’s work as “poetic rather than literal in nature. We move swiftly through time and place in order to tell Rebecca, Sam, and Anna’s stories as they exist in an emotional, rather than every day, reality.”
Playwright Stef Smith, who will be in Philadelphia for the production and a special talk-back, is unabashedly political—she searches for the darkest in life without relinquishing the possibility of light and optimism. In 2012, Stef Smith won an Olivier for RoadKill. After a 2013 residency to the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, she was named Associate Artist at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 2015. The Scotsman called Stef Smith “One of Scotland’s most gifted young playwrights.” Smith’s travel to the United States is being provided courtesy of American Airlines.
This American premiere of Swallow is directed by Claire Moyer and stars Corinna Burns, Samy el-Noury and Felicia Leicht. The crew includes Lauren Tracy (Production Manager), Lisa Sullivan (Stage Manager), Natalia de la Torre (Costume Designer), Meghan Jones (Set Designer), Rowan Darko (Sound Designer), Joseph Daniels (Technical Director), Avista Custom Theatrical Services (Properties Designer) and Angela Coleman (Lighting Designer). Special thanks to Honorary Producer the Satalof Family.
Swallow opens on Friday, April 28 at 8:00pm, with previews on Wednesday, April 26, and Thursday, April 27, at 7:00pm. Swallow runs for a total of 16 performances, through May 14, 2017. All shows are at the Proscenium Theater at The Drake, 302 South Hicks Street. South Hicks Street is right next to The Drake apartment building at 1512 Spruce Street.
Tickets are on sale for $25-$35 by calling (215) 454-9776 or visiting inisnuatheatre.org. To join the conversation, please like Inis Nua Theatre Company on Facebook and follow @InisNua Theatre on Twitter.302 S Hicks Street, Philadelphia PA Center City