Swallow, Edinburgh Fringe review: The dazzlingly deft handling of gender roles is among the many reasons to love this piece

Traverse Theatre: Sharon Duncan-Brewster is so confident in his/her emerging, tender masculinity that we forget this is a female actor in the role

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The Independent Culture

On a bare white stage, shaped to taper off into the distance, three women emerge, shafts of light around them angled so that it portions them off into their own cell-like spaces.

It emerges that one has split from her husband and is in the midst of what appears to be a sharp and fleetingly furious breakdown because of it; another practises smoking and posing like a man, for that’s what (s)he is inside her skin; the other hasn’t left home since the Christmas before last, instead staying inside to busy herself doing nothing, watching birds and drinking only water.

There are so many reasons to love this piece from playwright Stef Smith and the Traverse’s artistic director Orla O’Loughlin, and its dazzlingly deft handling of gender roles is just one.

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(Left to right) Anita Vittesse Emily Wachter and Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Credit Mihaela-Bodlovic)

It features only women, but it’s not a play which is self-consciously ‘about women’; Smith and O’Loughlin have created 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.

It’s a must-see this Fringe, definitely, in part because of three dazzling performances from Anita Vettesse and Emily Wachter, and particularly Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Sam, so confident in his/her emerging, tender masculinity that we forget this is a female actor in the role.

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