Review: Swim – Clare Louise Roberts

Show: SWIM
Venue: Venue 33 – Pleasance Courtyard
Star Rating: ****
Reviewer: Clare Louise Roberts

Serenading with an electric guitar whilst two of the four performers make small talk with entering audience members is exactly how Swim means to go on. You are looked after and you are guided throughout the show’s layers of loss and swimming. We are told this show is not about a woman named Ruth but it is for her. A show by Liz Richardson in association with the Pleasance and HOME, SWIM seems to be about wild swimming and someone who doesn’t swim out in the water for long enough.

Under the surface, the show is tech-heavy but the appearance is stripped back and simple. brought cohesively together by effective lighting which mirrors the light on the water and live music by Carmel Smickersgill. We’re led to believe at times that this is not a show but a presentation of their findings and research together, as if the show is still being made. We watch videos layered by interviews, arranged with live music, physical theatre and storytelling. 

Like the apparent plot, there is more than we originally perceive.

Smickersgill is a talented producer and performer, bridging sections with her music. A highlight is her song towards the end which was so calmingly climatic, full of soft alto vocals and joined harmoniously by her fellow theatre makers, Josie Dale-Jones, Sam Ward and Liz Richardson.

It is Richardson who draws us into the depths of this story though her continuous narrative style of storytelling; with ease she takes us to the water and calms us there, builds tension and releases us out into the wild again to observe her grief and joy safely from our seats. 

There is a clear camaraderie and friendship amongst the cast. The occasional exchange between actors delightfully exposes the reality of two options; that we are either watching these actors as they devise a play or we are watching very well rehearsed actors play themselves which is an accomplishment in theatre. Either way we are taken on a journey of how the show was created.

The whole experience of this show – an experience seems more appropriate – makes getting into a cold lake seem attractive. We are told; ‘It’s the depths of the water where all the light disappears’. 

Watching the video of Josie, Sam and Liz swimming in a cold rainy lake in the Lake District, I ask myself if I ‘get it’? Can we just be; be present in the moment, or are we driven by having a constant purpose in our activities rather than just a passion for them? Swim, with each character representing a different response will challenge you on this. 

As the actors study sweeps to their conclusions on this popular activity, we as an audience are affirmed that this is also our water and so if we swim, then our pain and our joy can also be felt here too.


Venue: Venue 33 Pleasance Courtyard
14 – 26 August
3.30pm (1 hour)

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