Theatre – Ruffled Feathers by Lily Hess

An over-60s theatre company has created a play based on the lives of the swans that live in a local park.

Ruffled Feathers is performed by the Encore Theatre Company, which is based at London South Bank University and seeks to challenge the stereotypes of ageing.

The play came about because Yvonne Levy, who often visits Brockwell Park, spotted a flock of swans which had recently moved into the park.

They had kicked the geese out of the small island in a pond and settled there.

Ms Levy said: “Mini crowds gathered every day, comparing notes and eagerly anticipating the arrival of the cygnets.

The most unlikely people talked to each other and bonded over the impending birth.

“This was the first swan family to appear in Brockwell Park for 30 years.

More than a year later, the swans are still connecting people of every possible background.

You cannot visit the park without talking about the latest developments.

“There are umpteen stories about the swans. Comedy, tragedy, drama of every possible kind, involving humans as well as animal life.”

The cygnets are now grown up and only five of the original seven still remain.

One of the young swans was isolated and abused by its family, so a concerned park-goer called The Swan Sanctuary moved the swan to a larger water space with other young swans.

Ms Levy said: “My idea was to devise a performance around the swan story but with universal themes of, for example, birth and death, migration, arrival, family life, rejection, growing up, gaining independence, love and caring.”

Keiron Spires, the secretary of the company, said: “The show we devised had a very minimal set with a large park bench being the centre of the action, and the audience acting as the pond – occasionally having swan food thrown at them.

“The cast wrote the script together and acted out the type of scenes that were typical of those to be found in the park.”

The company performed at the Theatre Peckham on May 30 and 31.

Students Javier Mora, Ben Gunn and Becky Turner from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama directed the play.

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