Partly based on J. A. Baker’s The Peregrine and situated somewhere in the region of Wes Anderson-ish aesthetics, Switchback’s Lucy and the Hawk is made out of two stories, that will, at least narratively, meet only briefly, at the very end. One is about Lucy, who battles with mysterious phone calls that come at the strangest hours from someone convinced she is his one and only; the other is about Elliott, who also gets pursued, but by a bird – a falcon that seems to follow him around and slowly becomes his obsession. On the theatrical side of things however, these two stories are directly intertwined, as the two actors, Tom Walton and Abigail Moffatt, take it in turns to produce foley effects and read lines for each other’s scenes.
This dramaturgical (or even technical) structure leads to conclusions about the possible nature of the relationship between Lucy and Elliott, and whether they are, metaphorically or otherwise, each other’s pursuers. It also helps create the atmosphere in the style of the (aforementioned) quirky director; the rubber gloves making a noise of a bird flying away in haste, and cardboard, tin, and paper sound contraptions paired up with a stage made out of sky-coloured asymmetrical desks are an instant gateway to a slightly displaced, off-beat, retro universe.
This setting alone however is too often left to hold the pieces of the performance together, as abstract elements continue to pile up and confuse. Most of all the writing insists on giving out only glimpses of concreteness – and the time is spent on an abundance of reflexive, broken and half rhythmical thoughts, that rarely manage to cross the road from incomplete to suggestive or symbolic. Occasionally the text manages to reveal the broken, insecure and inquisitive nature of Lucy and Elliott, but then it continues to make this same assertion over and over again, while leaving too many gaps with no clues on how to fill them. This juggling of repetition with material that’s too inconclusive to inspire many thoughts, is the main struggle of the performance. Moffat’s Lucy is consistently confused, wide eyed, and precious, while Walton’s Elliott is the same shade of energetic and introspective; the scenes role out in an endless sequence of foley and tempo-inducing music, to which Elliott jumps around in attempts to catch on with his bird, while Lucy stares at and and occasionally picks up the phone.
At times it seems as if Lucy and the Hawk simply didn’t manage to find enough of a progression for a full length piece. The undoubtedly imaginative structure, and the overlapping of the narrative with the theatrical language, runs out of steam one third of the way into the performance. It relies too heavily on this easily recognisable mechanism and the overall mood. What this story, which touches on loneliness, isolation, and a urge to break the cycle of every day catatonia, lacks is a language (be it verbal, visual or otherwise) that won’t stand still, but will instead push the characters and the narrative away from the starting point.