Pros: Engaging and moving dialogue that reveals the complexities of a loving mother struggling to accept her son’s identity.
Cons: The excessive attempts by Ray to leave Emily’s house – slightly over the top.
A 2017 report by Stonewall shows that one in five LGBT people experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the preceding twelve months. The research also reveals that anti-LGBT abuse extends far beyond acts of hate and violence on our streets, as a large number of LGBT people still endure poor treatment when accessing public services and in their everyday lives. Outside the UK, gay relationships are still criminalised in seventy two countries and in eight of them can result in the death penalty.
In The Swallow we have the story of Emily (Jeryl Burgess) and Ray (David Luque): although they haven’t met in person before, both of them have suffered the traumatic loss of a loved one during the massive shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016.
Ray asks Emily to give him some singing lessons in preparation for his mother’s memorial service. Emily doesn’t see much potential in Ray’s singing talents so initially refuses to teach him. Ray asks for a chance as his mother’s memorial is very important to him, a statement that melts Emily’s heart. Finally, she agrees to some intensive tutoring.
Whilst engaged in conversation the teacher talks about her son’s death as what she describes a case of “bad luck”. Afterwards she confesses to Ray that Danny (her son) was actually killed during the shooting at the gay club, a confession which initiates a fiery discussion where Ray maintains that the real reason Danny was killed was because he was gay, not because of “bad luck”.
The dialogues in The Swallow are captivating and moving. Although we sense the real connection between Emily and Ray from the beginning, a dramatic element is maintained throughout the play. Both characters have been well developed and present the complexities of a loving mother who nonetheless struggles to accept her son’s identity and that of a man who finds it difficult to acknowledge that other people find acceptance at a slower pace and in different ways.
In their cathartic dialogue, where demons and fears come to the surface, both Emily and Ray learn from one another and their individual experiences of love and loss. David Luque and Jeryl Burgess offer passionate performances without falling into over dramatisation or romanticism. Burgess as Emily is excellent in her embodiment of a caring mother deeply struggling to show her feelings.
In short this is an excellent and moving play, well worth the visit to Cervantes Theatre. Please note this production is playing in both English and Spanish, so be sure you book accordingly.
Author: Guillem Clua
Director: Paula Paz
Producer: Jorge de Juan and Paula Paz
Booking Until: 26 May 2018
Box Office: 020 3633 4406
Booking Link: http://www.cervantestheatre.com/home/?page_id=731