Splendid simplicity

Swing (Fishamble: The New Play Company)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

May 27 – 29

“Swing” shares the story of dancing partners Joe (Arthur Riordan) and Mary (Gene Rooney), following them over the course of a year of lessons. The pair is ordinary in every way, which represents a great deal of the show’s appeal. 50 year old Joe has left behind a failed marriage and recession-ravaged business to return to College to study horticulture. Now living in a lonely bedsit, he plays phone tag with his sons who live abroad. 40-ish wannabe artist and graphic designer May is in a relationship with a project manager, but is equally as lonely, given the time her partner spends working abroad.

They meet at a Dublin dance class and the audience is taken along the ride of their progress from fumbling awkward first steps through months of lessons of progression towards the more confident moves of the Charleston and alike. And despite it being a two-hander, along the way meet the classes’ memorable characters, including the man whose breath stinks like a bin.


There are lots of humourous moments in this heart-warming work, and lively moments too, through its rock tunes and also when, for example, the pair, in role as excitable instructors, break the fourth wall in instruction to the class of audience members to show their jazz hands. Initially, the multitude of roles is a little confusing, but characterisation is so district that changes are soon smoothed into an endearing experience through the use of a “change partners” refrain.

Riordan is charming as the nervous Joe. As Mary, Rooney brings warmth and an identifiably awkwardness to her newbie-dancer moves, thanks to her physicality and facial expressions. Indeed, there are moments during which she says so much, despite being plain-faced. And their lively play-offs against each other are pure entertainment, leading to a perfectly timed final dance together that is quite simply, a joy to behold.

“Swing” is an unassuming, but splendid show, full of humility and heart. Its simplicity is what gives it its appeal, with a sensibility not unlike that of “Once”, as it explores the little moments of life and warmth of companionship, particularly later in life. And it easy to see how it has become an intentional hit.

Photo c/o – https://www.facebook.com/Fishamble/


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