The Swan, a new play by Pat Anderson, is based on the real life women’s community centre of the same name in Sefton. Using the location as the starting point for a fictional tale, this gentle, Calendar Girls-esque set up brings together a bunch of characters who seemingly have nothing in common, yet come to be a support network for each other in their darkest times.
Rose (Elisa Cowley) has lost her young daughter to cancer, and volunteers to run a writing group in an attempt to reconnect with the outside world. There, she meets the hysterical, menopausal centre manager Jean (Jane Dickens), and attempts to get a few sentences out of the unwilling service users. These include insecure tough nut Clair (Lucy Fiori), timid would-be scriptwriter Ann (Angie Waller), Moira (Emma Hirons) who is coping with the bereavement of miscarriage, and soft-spoken pensioner Winnie (Barbara Wallis).
In turn, each of them uses the therapy of writing to tell the painful tales of their past lives, featuring some particularly strong monologues from Rose, Winnie and Ann. But there are laughs too, particularly when a stressed out Jean hijacks the class to read a poem of her own.
It’s not the most original set up, but Anderson (no relation, FWIW) does a lovely job with it, avoiding cliche and showcasing some strong writing that performers can really get their teeth into. A great ensemble cast makes the most of this in a really enjoyable production.
For more on the work of the real Swan Centre, visit swancentresefton.co.uk.