Can a show about grief be pleasurable? The answer is yes! As a first time producer at the Fringe (but a long time actor), Liz Richardson collaborates with fellow performers Josie Dale-Jones and Sam Ward, and musician Carmel Smickersgill to create a very interesting, engaging, and entertaining work called Swim.
At the show’s onset, it is explained that this work is not about grief, but rather a show for the person who was grieving – a friend of Liz’s. This becomes a thought-provoking aspect of the show. By the end, the audience begins questioning their original assumptions about who is grieving. The show offers a very clever concoction of mixed media, interesting “real” characters, original live music, dance, quality storytelling, and the opportunity to learn about wild swimming. As a bonus, you get a behind the scenes look at making the show while enjoying the show – how perfect for me and my blogging.
In speaking with Liz after the show, I was most interested in understanding what the experience is like to produce and continue performing in a show that’s so personal and a continued reminder of a very sad time. She explained that she is is no stranger to creating and presenting work of an intimate nature. However, she added that it’s been quite a different experience producing at the Fringe versus in Manchester, England where the show debuted. Back in Manchester, the show is connected into a grief organization, Cruse, which supports her work and vice versa. Creating work that is helpful to others appears to be an important, recurring theme for Liz. She shared that after shows in Manchester, audience members often approached her to share their grief. She confessed that after about 3 days of shows and lots of crying, the theater realized the emotional toll it was taking on her and brought in support for her. I asked her if she had any coping strategies with the prospect of the show being picked up for more runs elsewhere. She smiled and shared her mother’s advice which was that she, Liz, needs to distance herself and attempt to “act” more. It sounds like she is working out how to navigate that moving forward. With the quick set up and breakdown of a show at the Fringe, who has time to grieve? The show must go on…and out! Next!
Swim plays at the Fringe through August 26 at 15:30.