“Swansong,” the Story of a Troubled Irishman


By Austin Kaiser
“Swansong” is about a man named Occi, whom we meet at the water’s edge where he is feeding swans. He lovingly greets Agnes, his favorite. When another swan nibbles at Agnes’s treats, Occi kicks the intruder across the stage. That sums Occi up. He is loving towards things he considers precious, but when something strikes him the wrong way, he becomes a human weapon. He enjoys street fighting and has spent time in jail. He lives with his mother, who is an alcoholic. Andre de Vanny, the actor, speaks with a heavy Irish accent; his eyes bulge and his neck gets red. His arms swing, especially when he describes fights from his past, and sometimes he seems intent to cartwheel into the audience. Before seeing that this play was written by Conor McDermottroe, I assumed that Mr. de Vanny conceived Occi, because he plays him so well.
“Swansong” consists of incidents from Occi’s life; his entertaining and free-associative storytelling style resembles that of Forrest Gump at the bus stop. After busting his head open rolling down a hill inside a barrel, he claims he’s always been “a little funny.” Occi is violent and unpredictable. He chases a kid who called him a bad name, knocks him over, and slams a bicycle on top of him. At tense moments, Occi stands still and stares into the audience in an unsettling way.
He is sometimes endearing. At a mental institution, he is assigned work in the laundry room. A woman named Mary warms up to Occi. When they fold sheets together, twice over the long way, then coming in close for the final fold, they give each other a peck on the lips. Occi calls these “sheet kisses.” For all of his craziness, Occi is enjoyable company.
His other adventures include a stint as a fisherman, when, in a fit of confidence, he throws his anxiety medication overboard. He picks up the social security checks on which he and his mother rely at a government office. He fantasizes about Agnes and flying over the Statue of Liberty together.
“Swansong” is worth seeing for the Irish slang and humor, and for Mr. de Vanny’s performance. I recommend it to anyone who likes wisecrackers, loveable head-bangers, and masters of survival.
Performed by Andre de Vanny
Nov. 6 & 8 at 9pm
Director: Greg Carroll
Playwright: Conor McDermottroe
Show Image by Robert Catto, courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City

AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.

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