Theatre | At Swim Two Boys (Earthfall)

Earthfall’s revival of their 2005 production of At Swim Two Boys is a tender and powerful re-imagining of Jamie O’Neill’s novel of the same name. This second production is to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the novel’s publication and is currently on tour throughout Wales and England.

Set in Dublin against the backdrop of the 1916 Easter Uprising it tells of the burgeoning love between two boys, beautifully and powerfully performed by Daniel Connor and Murilo Leite D’Imperio. The story is both a love story which explores the need for personal liberation and a story about national freedom – the two juxtaposed to create a multi-layered narrative that is simply and eloquently told through movement, live and archive film footage, live music and text. Earthfall’s directors Jessica Cohen and Jim Ennis worked closely with Jamie O’Neill on both productions to produce a cohesive and thoughtful retelling of the book. Using just two dancers and live music from two musicians, Frank Naughton and Sion Orgon, they have managed to distil the essence of the story and create something that is striking, tender and utterly engaging.

At Swim Two Boys review Earthfall
At Swim Two Boys
Earthfall, National Tour
Directed by: Jessica Cohen & Jim Ennis

The dancers perform solely in water – a waterfall continually fills a large rectangle pool that covers the performance area a couple of inches deep. The effect is mesmerising as the water is kicked up and splashed about in a frenzy of kinetic energy, with the lighting design working beautifully to show this off to arresting effect. The audience members seated in the front row were handed plastic sheeting on arrival and told to cover up due to the enthusiasm of the performances. The audience was liable to get wet. They weren’t wrong. Even the musicians ensconced behind perspex were not safe from an occasional splashing as the two dancers slid, jumped and leaped about the stage.

The performances were playful, elegant, vibrant and completely emotionally and physically engaged throughout. There was a connection and synchronicity between Connor and D’Imperio that drew the audience in and we watched as their love for one another grew, the beauty and excitement of this being contrasted against the ugliness and violence of the war that surrounds them. Earthfall have put together a breath-taking piece of physical theatre that is both true to the novel and simultaneously a fresh experience, testimony to the power that adaptation can have.