Two Christmases have passed since Anna ventured outside. It’s OK though, she has loads to do: there are projects to make, an abundance of nature programmes to watch and a purity to cultivate. A purity she attends to achieve by drinking only water and smashing things up. Meanwhile Rebecca, the girl downstairs, is driving glass into her cheek, drinking Merlot – maybe too much Merlot – and meeting Sam, who flits between genders and encourages her to dance. To summarise the three in such a simple way feels almost like heresy, such is the remarkable complexity of Smith’s three characters and the beautiful emotion breathed into them by Duncan-Brewster, Vettesse and Wachter.
Swallow is a stunning study on three people. Each carefully crafted, they find themselves interwoven in the same story. Relaying their very different monologues, each gives an outstanding performance. Duncan-Brewster plays her emerging masculinity so effectively you could be forgiven for forgetting she is female, Vettesse gives a hauntingly simple performance heavy with emotion and Wachter is both funny and powerful in her insanity.
On the white stage, characterised by one door and a perfectly symmetrical box, three worlds are created solely by the aid of Smith’s writing. Loneliness is everywhere: Watcher curling up with a pelican she perhaps, perhaps not, hallucinated; Vettesse trying to talk to her through a closed door; Duncan-Brewster trying to figure out if posturing with a cigarette is something she can “commit” to. Swallow is earth-shattering without being dramatic. Scripted into isolation, the three come together, their loneliness and insanity confirmed by what they see in each other.
A stunning hour and twenty minutes, nothing in Swallow tries too hard: it is tragic but comic, complex but simple, ugly yet beautiful. Swallow is about survival, about clinging on for dear life, and it goes about it in a completely unconvoluted, quiet, strange and stunning way.
Swallow is playing at the Traverse Theatre until 30 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For tickets and more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.