Swallow Theatre Review during Wigtown Book Festival

'The Wake' was performed at the Swallow Theatre
'The Wake' was performed at the Swallow Theatre

Festival goers and locals packed the Swallow Theatre for the two nights that Freerange Theatre Company presented a double bill of comedies ‘Phillipa & Will are Now in a Relationship’ and ‘The Wake’ during the Wigtown Book Festival.

Both plays were new writing from Jon Brittain – a name to look out for in future. They were both refreshingly inventive and very funny. Director Hugo Chandor introduced the first of the two plays by explaining that the script tracked the ups and downs of an actual relationship conducted through Facebook messaging. For this we needed to be aware of the terminology used – OMG! (Although this was one even the luddites among us could guess.)

The two university students Phillipa and Will were convincingly played by John Dayton and Rebecca Fenwick. All frustrations, lust and angst were revealed to the world as they aired their feelings through Facebook. So much communication today is through text messaging – even when in the same room sitting next to each other. Turning this into an original and entertaining piece of theatre was truly creative thinking.

Whereas in the first play, their fingers got most of the exercise, ‘The Wake’ presented an entirely different challenge to the two actors. This was a tour de force for both.

After the interval, the audience returned to find the stage in darkness apart from candles glowing dimly in front of a coffin. While the audience recovered from the shock appearance of Sir Henry throwing back the lid of his coffin, John Dayton (as Sir Henry’s son Alec) started to unfurl a story of infidelity and greed. But John wasn’t just the son; he was also Sir Henry, Alec’s brother, the uncle, the butler and the uncle’s wife!

Then Alec’s wife Mary appeared on the scene to challenge her husband and attempt to find out what really happened. Mary was played by Rebecca Fenwick – who also played the uncle’s wife, the brother, uncle - and so on as she gave her version of events. Alec Guinness in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ had an easy job in comparison!

This was another innovative script by Jon Brittain, performed with boundless energy and skill. During the Q&A sessions afterwards, they revealed the amazing fact that John Dayton had only taken on the roles in both plays a week before and had a mere three days of rehearsals.

The Swallow has succeeded again in providing a theatrical gem which impressed not just locals but also visitors from far afield, here for Wigtown’s Book Festival. Always a welcome addition to the eclectic mix of literature, discussion and music we have come to expect each year.

Follow The Swallow website www.swallowtheatre.com for details of forthcoming events.