Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

Swansong is one of those plays whose success solely  depends on the performance of the actor presenting the story of Austin ‘Occi’ Byrne.

Andre DeVanny stars as Austin ‘Occi’ Byrne in the production of Swansong playing at Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory.*

Thanks to the work of Andre DeVanny the latest production of this emotionally charged play written by Conor McDermottroe is a meaningful theatrical experience.

Standing alone in front of the audience at Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory with no backdrop or any other theatrical support except changes in lighting, DeVanny powerfully portrays Occi’s life.

It’s not a happy story. Born in Ireland to a single mother he was already showing anti-social tendencies which became even worse after an accident in the sand-dunes.

Andre DeVanny *

His wish to leave his welfare–reliant mother and the town where he is being raised in the 1960s is continually dashed which only increases his anger at the church and many of his fellow citizens who have for many years bullied him and his mother.

His lack of self-control comes to a head after his mother returns to drinking after losing part of her welfare payments when Occi becomes an adult.  His actions result in a stay in a local mental hospital where he falls in love with Mary and eventually manages to control his emotions thanks to the drugs he is prescribed.

A decision to throw away the drugs due to feeling better while working on a fishing trawler results in Occi’s rage returning with life-changing consequences. That lack of control extends to his stint in the army and even more violence.

It’s a controlled Occi we meet at the beginning of the 90-minute play. Feeding his favourite swan Agnes he gradually reveals his life story and eventually the reasons for his behaviour.

Andre DeVanny *

DeVanny expertly portrays Occi’s many moods, from contentment when feeding the swans to sorrow to uncontrollable rage. Physical actions play a major role in much of his presentation and his actions clearly show Occi’s thoughts and behaviour.

Given DeVanny delivers the play’s often distressing dialogue with a thick Irish accent his ability to physically illustrate what Occi is thinking and doing is especially important for those who may struggle to comprehend all his words due to the accent.

Given its content Swansong is often hard to watch but DeVanny’s performance ensures it’s worth the discomfort.

Swansong is playing at the Explosives Factory until March 22. Visit the Theatre Works website for more information and tickets.

Jenny Burns attended the opening night as a guest of the producers.

*Photo credit: Red Hot Productions.

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