Airswimming tells the tragic story of two women, Dora and Persephone, who have been incarcerated and forgotten in an asylum for the criminally insane in the 1920s. While this premise is admittedly daunting at first glance, the story is lifted far from the dark, disturbing terrain it could have wallowed in with dashes of heartfelt humour and occasional, blissful scenes where the women retreat into their own fantasy worlds. Studded with both comical and moving renditions of Doris Day songs that serve to comment on the mood of the scene and mind-set of the characters, it is a unique and clever piece of theatre. Alison Nicol’s performance of Day’s Secret Love was particularly touching.

The play is an excellent vehicle to showcase the talents of Tanya Chainey and Alison Nicol, whose performances are captivating, comical, inspiring and affecting.

With Persephone idolising and impersonating Doris Day, regularly getting swept up in her imagination of a world filled with glamour and adoration, and Dora fantasising about the army and a triumphant life as some of history’s greatest women, the pair are well equipped to become a memorable double act from the onset. The play is an excellent vehicle to showcase the talents of Tanya Chainey and Alison Nicol, whose performances are captivating, comical, inspiring and affecting.

The story spans several decades, ending in the 1970s when the pair are finally released from the asylum. The fragmented narrative hops freely between decades and becomes more difficult to grasp as the story develops. Although it does feel tangled and ultimately confusing, it accurately reinforces the fact that inside the asylum, time has entirely lost its purpose. The feeling of the story’s structure essentially unravelling before you effectively comments on the state of the character’s minds and instils in the viewer the same emotions that are present on stage. It is this inclusion that makes Airswimming a very evocative and memorable show. The lack of a clearly defined plot makes space to explore the full breadth of Dora and Persephone’s emotions.

The very intimate space of the venue had both its merits and its drawbacks. While it was successful in emulating the story’s overarching feelings of claustrophobia and confinement, from a practical point of view, it afforded too little space for clear scene changes and didn’t allow the best views for the audience. However, the quality of the performances and the poignancy of the story are more than enough to distract from these small disadvantages. Overall, Airswimming is an admirable piece of theatre that deserves every recommendation.

Reviews by Lois Zoppi

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The Blurb

“A feelgood comedy set in the most unlikely of places” (The Guardian). Critically acclaimed Weird Sisters present a touching tale of two women abandoned in a psychiatric hospital. Forgotten for 50 years, they create a surreal fantasy life enlivened by Doris Day, a Moulinex hand whisk and Airswimming.

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