Thu 24 Mar

Interview with Liz Richardson – writer and performer of SWIM

Liz Richardson is the writer and performer in SWIM - our Studio Spring co-production. We caught up with her ahead of the production's run at TBTL (1-16 April at TBTL - touring thereafter).

What inspired you to write SWIM?

Back when I first had the idea in 2017, open water swimming was really starting to pick up and pop up as a more talked about thing around the UK. I was noticing so many people were taking to the water to help process things they were going through in their lives, I wanted to know more but I also wanted to dig more specifically into why and what my friend was getting from swimming outdoors.

Given the play has had a previous life, how does this reimagining of the show compare with the previous version?

The first version of SWIM had a cast of three of us and a musician. This time it’s just me and the musician on stage. The play is more of a storytelling piece from my perspective rather than an exploratory expression of swimming and how it’s held my friend through grief.

How have you approached the creative process this time around? What has altered?

With the previous versions I ran workshops on grief and wild swimming; organised public swims; researched into the effects of cold water with cold-water specialist Professor Mike Tipton; interviewed a wide range of people and built up the web of stories and ideas on how to portray this swimming phenomenon and then tried to create a show around this with two other theatre makers.

This time round, I had the time having another baby and sitting through a pandemic to write the play first! I wanted to recreate the show and get into the real reason of why I wanted to tell this story. I wanted to honour the story and I felt I had unfinished business. I brought the brilliant Andy Routledge back into the process to help direct the piece and Carmel Smickersgill to write the music once again. We built a creative team around us with the help of my producers and Theatre by the Lake…and here we are!

Can you tell us a bit more about the tour and where you’ll be taking the show to?

After just under 3 weeks at Theatre by the Lake, we’ll be visiting five venues around Cumbria (some villages which have their very own outdoor pool!). We then travel town to Cornwall where we’ll open at the Minack Theatre for three performances right on the cliff side! Following will be various locations around the South West before coming back down to the south at the end of May to perform at Exeter Phoenix and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

We hear that you are organising a lot of additional wraparound activities for the show, can you tell us a bit more about how audiences can get involved?

Every day, whether folk are free or not(!), I’ll be swimming before each performance with local established outdoor swimming groups. I’ve been in touch with some brilliant groups already and I can’t wait to swim with them. At each location I swim at I’ll be blogging my experiences around the country, interviewing swimmers as I go. People will be able to track my progress on Theatre by the Lake’s website.

SWIM is also being published, inside copies of the text people can find a copy of our QR code which, once scanned, takes you to a recording of the play – meaning you can revisit the show to read or listen to whenever you want! There’s hopefully going to be the opportunity to find this QR code in various locations around the UK which we visit whereby you can scan it and sit or walk and just listen to chapters whilst taking in the view.

There are various post-show discussions going on at different venues too with wild swimming authors, outdoor swimming instructors and avid swimmers joining me on panels.

Is there anything that might surprise audiences about the show?

If audiences are expecting 75 minutes of pure swim-talk, then they may be surprised that that won’t be the case…but I hope they will be more intrigued as to how you make a show about swimming whilst keeping the attention of audience members who have never taken a step into a body of cold water.
Finally, who have you written this show for?

I’ve written this show for lots of people who may be able to connect to the greater message of grief, community and seeking support, but most of all I’ve written this show for my friend, Lisa.