The theatre is bathed in a haze of smoke and paper mâché birds slowly circle the stage like a baby's mobile. Blood red light illuminates the stage and then you hear it. A deep, vibrating bass note sends chills through the theatre. Nervous laughter penetrates the silence, as we are confronted with the ugly side of humanity and reminded to finish what we start.
Little Black Afro/Filament Incubator's production of Aaron Jan's Swan is a phenomenal piece of storytelling that captures audience members in the first act and then tortures their minds in the second.
Swan tells the story of Joey (Bria McLaughlin) her sister Bill (Michelle Chiu), Ron (Angela Sun), Jenna Lynn (Marina Moreira), Piper (Christine Nguyen) and Rachel (Isabel Kanaan), five friends who return to their hometown to try and solve the case of a murdered swan from 10 years prior; “finish what you start,” we are told. However, as the show goes on, we learn there is something haunting these women from within – something horrible they initially can't remember ... until they do.
Swan is a well-rounded piece of theatre in which all the elements come together in perfect harmony. It is dramatic storytelling at its finest and a haunting tale with beautiful imagery that infiltrates the mind minute by minute. The only criticism I could find is the length; with a running time of just over two hours I felt that Swan may have overshot by about 15 minutes. The ending felt a bit messy and dragged out. However, I did enjoy that it brought the story full circle to a clean ending between Joey and Bill.
All in all, Swan is a riveting piece of theatre with depth and substance. It addresses the issues of race, diversity, sexual orientation and above all, the struggle of being different. It is a tragic tale with just a touch of horror – not enough to frighten you but just enough to unsettle you.
Swan is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace until Nov. 13. For more info visit https://littleblackafro.com/production/ca1b6570c116fb38/Swan.