Wild Swimming is the story of two friends across centuries of change and development. Chaotic storytelling and frantic costume changes ensue in what becomes a bold, anarchic and life-affirming celebration of progress and friendship.
A bold, anarchic and life-affirming celebration of progress and friendship.
Oscar and Nell begin the story of their friendship on a deserted beach at some point at the end of the sixteenth century, or perhaps the early seventeenth century – they aren’t entirely sure. From here, they are catapulted through the ages, revisiting their beach in what might be the Regency period, and later in post-war Britain, before finally arriving a little bedraggled in the present day. Their relationship sets out with solid foundations, but comes under increasing strain when radical changes to gender politics have very personal implications.
This innovative premise is brought to life with bucket loads of energy by actors Annabel Baldwin and Alice Lamb, who even as we enter the theatre are dashing about, handing out raisins and chocolates and enlisting our help to put the finishing touches to their costumes. Their evident trust in each other allows for the most wonderful sense of play and and completely spontaneity. The performances are live in the truest and most total sense of the word, with both actors alert to the unique environment and circumstances of this performance; latecomers are greeted with generosity and briefly updated on the story so far, before the pair plough on without missing a beat. The whole production seems to be just a step away from total chaos at any given point, while managing to stay entirely on track.
Underneath the poignant development of Oscar and Nell’s relationship, the play delves into the complexities of gender and privilege. The titular metaphor of swimming develops and expands to become a nuanced signifier for increasing female empowerment, and in particular the disintegrating barriers for Nell as a writer. The company take on the weighty issues of gender and privilege with sensitivity, and expose their very human consequences.
This is a thorough and empathetic interrogation what it really means to move forward. Wild Swimming is huge fun, a touching celebration of progress and friendship told with spontaneity, honesty and creative flair.