Bristol Old Vic

Wild Swimming

Comedy_and_tragedy_masks_without_backgro

September 2019

Alice Lamb and Annabel Baldwin in Wild S

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS: Alice Lamb and Annabel Baldwin in Wild Swimming  © The Other Richard

I swear it's shite, reviewer

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, so said one reviewer who gave it five stars. Not so for Melanie Greenwood as the Edinburgh Fringe production found little favour with this Nailsea People reviewer.

IT was a packed first night at Bristol Old Vic’s performance of ‘Wild Swimming’ which is on in the Weston Theatre until Saturday, September 21.

The two women show sees Alice Lamb as Nell and Annabel Baldwin as Oscar, leaping and bounding across the stage/beach through time, space, gender and a lot sweary squabbling.

Not against swearing, I do a lot of it. Quite a bit after this performance. When it’s getting more laughs than the script, I start to cringe.

Wild Swimming had a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, so maybe it’s me who is wrong.

Writer Marek Horn, who was 'writer on attachment' to Bristol Old Vic in 2015 and calls himself ‘an award-losing playwright’ premiered Wild Swimming at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The credentials are good.

Nell and Oscar meet on a beach in Dorset. It’s 1595… or maybe 1610. Costumes are flung on and some of the audience help with laces and corset, gummy sweets are handed around.

Oscar has returned from university and Nell is doing f**k all but ogling him naked swimming and sunbathing. She’d arrived at the beach to find a quiet place to masturbate. That got a good laugh.

The time travelling lovers and squabblers meet here, like Groundhog Day, for the next 400 years and their rows sustain them through wars, privilege, feminism, gender politics and generally how crappy men are. Even when you love them enough to trail through time.

In other hands, there would have been less shouting, we might have seen the lovers progress from naval gazing to grow together rather than being stuck in the rut of slapstick and politics that seems irrelevant because the audience hasn’t got a second to dwell on them.

It moves at the speed of light without illumination. You don’t get a chance to look at what they are skimming over.

There were good lines; the audience laughed.  I so wanted a glimpse of silence as 400 long years were pumped like rocket fuel into this one-hour show.

As a comedy act it was fine – for about 10 minutes and then I just didn’t find it funny; getting the audience to pretend to be an ocean and spray the actors with a squeezy bottle of water. Maybe I would if I’d been aged 10.

In a world that feels it’s going to hell in a hand cart, humour is ever more vital. And slapstick is important but Wild Swimming misses the grit it seems to want to express in terms of gender and the politics of wealth and privilege.

The actresses held it together as well as possible. They raced and rushed and fought and there was a tenderness between them but it all fell flat on its face for me. If felt juvenile and finally, joyless.

 

Melanie Greenwood

Wild Swimming plays until Saturday evening, September 21. Tickets £13 with recommended for ages 14+.

For more information call the box office on 0117 987 7877 or email tickets@bristololdvic.org.uk