Backstage

TW Talks Tuesday: An Interview With Andre de Vanny

Written by acclaimed writer/director Connor McDermottroeSwansong is one of those plays whose effects are bound to be felt long after you’ve experienced it. Set in the Catholic west of Ireland, it is a violent, tragic and hauntingly tender story of a young man fighting his way into adulthood. With a powerful and engrossing performance by Andre de Vanny, this award winning Irish play will have audiences captivated from the second Occi Byrne speaks.

What sets Swansong apart from other plays is there are no props, no lighting or any set design. It relies solely on its performer and character to tell this intensely emotional story.

ADV: This is a performance driven piece, a pure storytelling experience. Without set, sound or props you have the freedom to create any world you want at any time. It feels very natural to me and it allows for a more direct and intimate relationship with the audience.

De Vanny reprises the role of Occi for the third time with this remount, and the anticipation felt from the first time he brought this complex character to life is still felt.

ADV: Each time that I’ve played Occi has felt new and special. It’s like visiting an old friend. He has remained close to my heart and mind, so when I play him, it’s like we just pick up where we left off. However, the most challenging aspect of playing him is that he shifts emotions on a dime. There are many highs and lows in the play that follow one after the other, often in quick succession. Once the show has begun you have to let go and allow it to flow in its own unique way. But this takes rigorous physical, vocal and mental preparation. It’s the old story where ‘achieving spontaneity and freedom in the moment requires extreme discipline and thorough preparation’.

While Swansong takes place in Ireland during the 70/80s, the story still remains extremely topical, with many of the issues raised in the play being dealt with in contemporary society.

ADV: This is a timeless story that is as relevant today as ever. Prejudice and mental illness are unfortunately still prevalent in society today. This play speaks to those issues here and now. It shines a light on those people who slip through the cracks, those who are outcast and forgotten. Having a child out of wedlock is no longer the shameful sin it once was but the bullying and persecution Occi endures as a result of this is something many can relate to.

Despite such difficult themes being explored in Swansong, de Vanny take a positive attitude towards the show and that the overall message is one of hope.

ADV: Occi is an eternal optimist. We all know people who have hope even in the face of the direst situations. It’s inspiring and endearing. I hope people will take that away from the show.

 

Read more about Swansong here.

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