The National Theatre of Parramatta (NTP) couldn't have come at a better time. Sydney is growing, and as a result, art and entertainment is changing to reflect this growth. There's no question about the diversity of the city, particularly in Western Sydney. Some 30-40 years ago, migrants from around the world made Parramatta their new home, and now their children, a majority of whom have been "born and bred" in Australia, continue to call Parramatta (and other parts of Western Sydney) their hometown. Still today, many settle in Western Sydney looking for new ground to place their roots.
Luisa Hastings Edge as Anna and Megan Drury as Rebecca
Annette Shun Wah, a producer, writer, actor and broadcaster (whose work we may know through her time at SBS) is also one of the directors of the NTP. She believes the theatre can unlock the "untold stories of Western Sydney", and not just those that centre around migration and forging into the future in unknown territory. If Sydney is growing, then so is Western Sydney, and stories from migrant children - grown to adulthood - are now the stories of any Australian, as are the stories of their neighbours, colleagues and friends.
Valerie Berry as Sam
Swallow, the NTP's inaugural production, looks at the effects of modern living, and the idea of loneliness and isolation in a big city. Starring Valerie Berry as Sam, Megan Drury as Rebecca and Luisa Hastings Edge as Anna, the production was written by Stef Smith and directed by Kate Champion.
It's fitting that a theatre production exploring the ideas of identity and belonging is the NTP's first cab off the rank, and it offers pretty powerful performances from each cast member.
There's a part of each character's story you can relate to, whether it be Anna's (Luisa Hastings Edge) current reclusive state, Rebecca's (Megan Drury) longing for love and Sam's (Valerie Berry) fearless optimism for the future. Anna is denial personified - everything's fine, you tell yourself, while you put up walls (sometimes with actual bricks and mortar, as the production played on the "home renovation" idea of isolation well) to keep the world around you out. Rebecca is the lovelorn and lonely of us, looking for connection but still left reeling from a relationship breakdown. Sam knows - as do we all - that the path to self-actualisation relies not on other people's perception of you, but of the perception YOU choose to portray.
Luisa Hastings Edge as Anna
If Swallow is the NTP's introduction to Sydney theatre-goers, then it's a good one, as it supports its mandate of bringing complex, touching and diverse stories to life.