THEATRE REVIEW: Wild Swimming ★★★★
Weston Studio, Bristol Old Vic
Tuesday 10th - Saturday 21st September 2019
With a timeless and simplistic set, which allows our protagonists Nell and Oscar to jump through the centuries, Marek Horn's Wild Swimming pushes the boundaries to what we consider theatre to be; with a clear lack of blocking, the production allows the performers in the space, Annabel Baldwin and Alice Lamb, to become free and silly, all thanks to Julia Head's considerate direction, which truly allows each performance to become a unique experience.
Oscar (Baldwin) has just returned from university when we first encounter his reunion with his close friend Nell (Lamb). With talk of the Greek tale involving Hero and Leander, we are sucked in this world where at any moment the performers can break and interact with the audience, wether this may be through handing out snacks from their multi-purpose set, to talking to babies and getting lost in the text; it's incredibly exciting and fresh to have this personal interaction and allows us to be in a safe space, even to the point of helping our new friends on the stage to undress following their scenes, which are always pumped with a high energy soundtrack and a movement sequence, similarly to something you'd see from The OA, that hurtles them into the future to their next segment.
As the time hurtles forward, the distance between our protagonists also reflects upon this; the more time goes on, the further apart Nell and Oscar become to eachother, with each achieving success without the others hand in the making, which at times cause for some heated arguments and a brilliant use of the Weston Studio at Bristol Old Vic, with its balcony being put into good use. As the production races towards the finishing post, we end up in the present day, where a once close bond has been fractured, and it's to Horn's words which are so vividly brought to life that we feel so connected to these friends who we met merely around an hour before. The ad-libs and break of character don't stop in any form, but the once manic energy has calmed, and as the final moments of Wild Swimming draws to a close, we are left to sit and ponder what friendship truly means, before being ushered back into the real world.
Overall, Wild Swimming is a unique and astonishing piece of theatre, with the only downside being the wish it was extended in length to allow us time to interact around more with friends who now feel so distant.