wild swimming at bristol old vic…

Moira and I went along to the Old Vic (The Weston Studio) to see FullRogue’s “Wild Swimming”, directed by Julia Head. The production received excellent reviews when it was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and, on the basis of what saw tonight, they were fully deserved. Lasting just over the hour and featuring just two actors (both quite superb: Alice Lamb as Nell and Annabel Baldwin as Oscar), the play takes place on a beach across five centuries of time-shifting action.

As you take your seats before the play commences, you immediately get a contagious sense of fun and irreverence as the actors chat, sort out their initial costumes and endeavour to find sweets, snacks and various props filed away in the small storage units that form part of the stage set.
You get the sense that it's all going to be OK and that you can just relax and be joyfully entertained.
Sweets continue to be shared with the audience, certain people are given water-pistols and water pumps to use during the performance and informal, constant dialogue puts everyone at ease… and then, suddenly, the lighting switches, the actors are in position and motionless… and we’re about to start.
The action begins in the late 16th century, then skips to the 18th, then the 20th, and finally present day. Nell comes from a rich family, but she’s a woman, and she’s bored and life has no proper purpose… until she begins to write. Oscar is a university student with grand ideas about swimming, writing (and the Hellespont) and preaching to Nell about his theories, but that’s as far he ever gets. As the play develops into the 20th century, one becomes aware of a reversal of gender-derived success…
Throughout the play, we have the complicated relationships between two characters – sometimes great friends, sometimes loving, sometimes hating, sometimes jealous and resentful… and all this amid on-stage costume changes, constant (frequently bawdy) dialogue, musical accompaniment and, of course, random sweets being thrown into the audience. It’s also brilliantly-scripted (by Marek Horn) – although the actors are quite wonderful in their frequent ‘deviations’ from the script and their ability to react to each other’s ad-libbing interventions/audience interactions with apparent ease.
There’s a wonderful chemistry and energy to it all and, certainly, last night’s audience loved it! It finishes at the Old Vic on Saturday 21 September… if there are any tickets left, then I’d strongly advise you to get to see it. Really excellent.

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