Bristol Old Vic theatre review: Wild Swimming

Lily Nicholls reviews Wild Swimming, playing at Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 21 September 2019.

This play is a vibrant potted history of feminism, literature and swimming.

It’s about a man and a woman who first meet on a beach in the 15th Century, and they carry on meeting on the beach for the next 400 years. Gender and art changes, and their friendship changes too.

Time is elastic, Nell and Oscar meet as Oscar has just started university, Nell of course remains in Dorset tethered to her family seat, because it is 1595…or maybe 1610, and Nell is a woman, therefore she has no hope of getting an education, all she can do is wait for a suitor and make sure to protect her fertility at all costs.

History passes (aided by snack portals and interpretive dancing) in a bendy sort of way, we end the play in the present day …ish, and Oscar is contemplating whether to do an MA or PGCE and Nell has become a published writer.

A lot has happened between the friends, world history has shaped and scarred them, great developments in women’s rights have made the world outside of Dorset more accessible for Nell, everything has changed, and yet they remain young friends with hope for the future.

The script is fairly elastic too, Alice Lamb (Nell) and Annabel Baldwin (Oscar) have delicious chemistry together, jabbing at each other and bickering throughout, reacting to the audience’s reactions and ad lib dialogue aplenty is guaranteed to keep the show fresh

Wild Swimming was a fun night out that brings a slice of Edinburgh Fringe to Bristol, The script is totally accessible, and though it touches on several hearty academic subjects you really don’t need any prior knowledge to find it funny.

For further information, and to book online, visit


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