Aug 21 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆       Convincingly performed

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Venue 24): Wed 3 – Sun 28 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Frizz Theatre’s Swallowed is a production whose desire for topicality proves a drawback. Nevertheless, two excellent performances redeem any deficiencies.

Written by Frances Colin (who also directs), the play features Lori Stott and Sam James Smith as a couple forced apart in the early stages of a lockdown. Zoom calls and distanced meetings replace genuine intimacy as they struggle with their feelings and obligations.

Sam James Smith and Lori Stott in Swallowed. Pic Tom Duffin

While this does not seem to be dealing specifically with Covid, as the situations and symptoms described are clearly different, the play does fall into some of the traps that befall so many ‘lockdown dramas’.

The most obvious is the setting up of a false opposition, for dramatic purposes, between an older generation who follow the rules to the extent of paranoia, and younger people who refuse to believe in the truth of transmission, testing or indeed much else. This not only misrepresents everyone, it risks reducing character to cliché.

The structure of the play is also distinctly unsatisfactory, with a succession of micro-scenes that average out at under three minutes – and some are considerably shorter. The constant use of blackout between them becomes distinctly wearing. Many of these scenes add little, and the play struggles for cohesion.

sensitive direction

However, there are real plus points. Colin’s obvious facility for dialogue is showcased in the longer scenes, and the relationship between the two characters, Tom and Allie, is thoroughly believable.

This is helped greatly by Colin’s sensitive direction, and the excellent performances of Stott and Smith, whose individual efforts are matched by a commendable rapport. Smith’s frustrated, self -obsessed, but still concerned Tom is extremely credible, while Stott’s dutiful, easily influenced Allie is a tremendous characterisation, full of contradictory emotions and genuine desires.

That the characters are prone to all kind of human frailties just makes them more realistic, and the two actors’ representation of such weaknesses is one of the best things about the performance. The whole production, however – despite its distinctly uneven construction – shows great promise.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Coorie) 3 Chambers St, EH1 1HT (Venue 24)
Wednesday 3 – Sunday 28 August 2022
Daily (not 15) at 13:00.
Information and tickets: Book here.

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Sam James Smith and Lori Stott in Swallowed. Pic Tom Duffin


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