presented by Theatre by the Lake, Liz Richardson Productions & imPOSSIBLE Producing
“The sensation of water
flowing around my body
happily floating down a river,
watching the banks pass me by.
I like to take the same
journey as a river
it’s the lack of control
which feels so good,
it’s good to leave my
life alone for a while.”
Liz grew up in the Lake District. She spent her childhood walking in the fells, playing in the lakes and in the river at the end of her garden. After time away living in the City, Liz returns to the hills and into a new village for a new chapter of her life. But when her new community is rocked by tragedy, Liz rediscovers outdoor swimming and how it can keep both her and her new friends afloat. Filled with humour and heart, live music and projection, SWIM is a tender tale based on a true story.
Written and performed by Liz Richardson (Gutted) and featuring live music and video projection, SWIM is premiering at Theatre by the Lake in Spring 2022 ahead of a rural and UK theatre tour
Reviews of Swim
The Westmoreland Gazette by Karen Morley-Chesworth
Theatre by the Lake's Swim was "beautiful to watch"
Sitting in The Studio just a few yards from Derwentwater the urge to run down to the shore and into the icy water is extreme after Liz Richardson’s performance of her play Swim, writes Karen Morley-Chesworth.
This is a new version of the production performed at HOME in Manchester and at the Edinburgh Festival before the lockdowns.
Originally with a cast of other performers, sharing the experiences of a group of wild swimmers, during the following couple of years, Liz revisited her work and focused on the true-life experience of her and her friend Lisa B.
This one-woman performance works beautifully, distilling their intertwined story into the one voice.
The setting for this production at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick is simple and effective.
A chained curtain backdrop upon which the blurred projection take us into Liz’s memory - driving down country lanes, leaving behind her life in London to relocate back up North with her husband to bring up a family in the rural setting she enjoyed as a child of the Lake District fells.
We go with her on the dawn journeys to the waterside to swim with her new pals, as her face and body move between the projection of the images.
The sensory experience, creating a unique atmosphere in The Studio is enhanced by the music performed live by Carmel Smichersgill on stage with Liz.
Before the lights dim for the performance to begin, Liz and Carmel casually walk onto the set, and Liz chats away to us, like a stand-up comedian making us laugh about her experiences, as we can see bits of ourselves in the story she is telling.
And as the lights slowly dim we enter her world.
From the Lakes to London and back up North to the Peak District.
Liz gently tells how she became friends is Lisa B - it is like listening to her chatting to us in the pubs she so happy describes.
She tells us of her first toe-dip in the freezing waters with her wild swimmer friends and how the shock of the water becomes an escape from the world.
And how these wild swims become a lifeline for Lisa B after the loss of two young family members.
You feel Liz reliving the nightmare she, Lisa B and her close-knit community experienced - though it is more accurate to say experience.
Knowing this is a true story and that in a few days' time Lisa B, family and friends will be sitting in the same Studio watching this production, makes this a special piece of intimate theatre.
We really are sharing their life experiences.
This is as live, raw and open as the wild stretches of water Liz and Lisa B and their friends submerge themselves in.
Liz is the most natural performer, and this is the most human of plays.
You laugh, you cry and you gain hope from this production, and you also gain an understanding as to why anyone would want to get up before dawn and jump into dark, freezing wild open water.
This is a performance to inspire and touch your soul.
Beautiful to watch, listen to and feel.
The Northern Arts Review by Ken Powell
I sometimes wonder if the team at Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) sit down each year (pandemics allowing) when deciding which productions to produce or host and think, ‘Okay, what can we do to stun our audiences even more than we did last year?’ If they do, I wonder if it every gets boring for them?
I say this because, after reviewing TBTL for a nearly ten years I still inevitably come away from certain productions thinking, ‘Wow. That is possibly the best thing I’ve ever experienced.’ It’s happened again, just now, with Liz Richardson’s astonishing Swim. I don’t know how they do it.
I have to say, from the start, that there are trigger warnings. If you’ve experienced the loss of a child or are close to someone who has, you need to know that this is close to the knuckle. Swim is an emotional rollercoaster that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. Also, there are moving visual images projected on to the screen at the back throughout the 75 minute show. If you’re prone to motion sickness, as I am, you might just struggle with a few seconds of one of the opening scenes. I was absolutely fine but had that scene continued much longer I might have felt a little queasy; so if you’re very affected by motion be aware of that.
Those triggers aside, Swim is a must-see studio production. Knowing that Liz Richardson, who wrote and performs the story, is Cumbrian, and the story is set in a little village in the area, I expected something quaint but perhaps not quite possessing the professional finesse I might otherwise see. I was completely side-swiped by the whole thing. It was faultless. Richardson played our hearts like a musical instrument.
Perhaps this was, in part, because of the superb music that accompanied throughout, commentating emotionally on the story being told? Composed and performed by the superbly named Carmel Smickersgill, using a variety of voice, instruments and digital devices, the music was, again, faultlessly professional and carried us along without being intrusive. I’ve rarely seen music performed in this kind of setting with such care and grace without disrupting the flow. This composer/performer is someone I want to see again.
But we came for the story and…well, what a story. Based on the true story telling of Liz Richardson’s return to the north after a career in London and settling into a village where everyone ‘knows your business’, she tells of the ups and downs – all with great humour – of getting used to a very different life to that of the city.
And then tragedy happens. It happens to very real people and they react with very real emotions. We’re guided through this so well we almost feel like we’re there. Perhaps not all the way in, but at the water’s edge, so to speak, and the story becomes tangible.
The water’s edge is not where Richardson stops though. Both metaphor and literal comforter, the waters she and her friends embrace take centre stage. Swimming brings this community together and provides the escape needed when life becomes too much. As a near-non-swimmer (I can manage a couple of lengths in the swimming pool) and confirmed non-outdoors swimmer, I came very close to the temptation to stick my toe in Derwent Water outside of the theatre. I didn’t though: things had been emotional enough for one evening.
Does this show then end in depression and despair. No. Far from it. Just like emerging from the depths of cold waters, Richardson brings us back up for air – fresh northern air – and gives us laughter, deep friendship and, most of all, hope. It’s a distinctly northern hope shared by northern friends which a northern audience will especially understand. It is an astonishing miracle to perform; to take us to those heights, then depths and yet bring us back up to the heights again. There were times when I thought this artist must surely break from script or simply just break down full stop. But not so. Liz Richardson gives a consummate performance. In such an intimate venue as TBTL’s studio, it felt a privilege to be there.
I have little doubt that this show will sell out. My understanding is that tickets are already going like hot cakes. If you’re looking for something that’s deep, full of the spirit of the north but ultimately hopeful, then I urge you to get remaining tickets while you still can. Take tissues though.
The Stage by Stephen Longstaffe
A moving exploration of loss and regeneration
Shows thwarted by Covid-19 continue to find their way back to the stage at Theatre by the Lake. Swim’s first iteration was as a three-hander in 2019 at Manchester’s Home. It has now evolved into a touring-focused, solo storytelling show with live-music support. It’s a piece about the death of children and the impact this has – particularly on their aunt – and what happens next as joy re-enters life for the mothers affected. Wild swimming is the thing that holds both these elements together, as both a source of communal fellowship and of intensely subjective embodiment.
The shallow studio space brings performers and audiences instantly together. Hannah Sibai’s set – a reflective oval floor and a back curtain of glistening metal chains – is all about the light. Some of the best images come when background becomes foreground, the curtain becoming the water, moving as performer Liz Richardson leans back into it.
With such a screen, Jim Dawson’s video projection always has an impressionistic quality, even with everyday live action. This nicely contributes to the show’s imagery of swimming and immersion as a metaphor for inner life. Dawson’s images take us below the water and into the skies of the green world the story inhabits, sometimes closely shadowing the story, sometimes complementing it. Carmel Smickersgill’s live music is also both in and of the action, syncing powerfully at times with the physicality of Richardson’s performance.
In one beautiful moment, the music becomes the action, as Smickersgill sings a prayer for one of the bereaved women. The show’s final image, where the two join to play the keyboard together, chimes with an ending that acts as a reminder of new life and new connections.
Richardson’s writing is spare and direct. Music and imagery are given space. As the show gathers momentum, her storytelling becomes more rooted in her body. The images are no longer backdrop. Movement director Briony O’Callaghan does a fine job in providing Richardson with a rich collection of twists and glides, different parts of the body springing into life to serve the story.
Richardson’s own part, her own emotions, also surface more strongly over time. But she often keeps her distance from acting out the anecdotes, even when she is their protagonist.
It’s a delicate balance that does not always hold. The earlier part of the show perhaps leans too heavily on sound and projection in places, keeping Richardson’s skilled physicality and comic timing too much under wraps. But the latter stages are perfectly poised as the show travels towards its moving evocation of hope.
About the SWIM company
Liz Richardson trained at E15 Acting School, London. She now lives in the Peak District. She co-created one-woman show Gutted at HOME, which toured the UK widely. Whilst in London she was a founding member of actor-led, improvisational theatre company The Factory, performing at theatres including The Globe, Southwark Playhouse, Soho Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and on BBC radio. Liz has also enjoyed success in stand-up comedy, being a semi-finalist in the Soho Theatre’s Amused Moose competition (BBC) and appearing for Funny Women and The Hackney Empire alongside Jenny Eclair. Liz is a facilitator for the Manchester hub of Mothers Who Make- a UK initiative peer support group for creative mothers and their work.
Find out more about Liz and her work www.lrproductions.co.uk
Andy Routledge is a theatre director from Northampton. His directing credits include 60 MILES BY ROAD OR RAIL (Royal & Derngate), WHEN WE DIED (Vault Festival, Edinburgh Festival) and VENTOUX devised with 2Magpies Theatre (Curve, Summerhall and national tour). His assistant directing credits include NEAPTIDE (National Theatre), B!RTH (Royal Exchange, Wellcome Collection), HOW MY LIGHT IS SPENT (Royal Exchange, Sherman Theatre, Theatre by the Lake), TWELFTH NIGHT, SWEET CHARITY and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (all at Royal Exchange).
He is the founder of 60 Miles by Road or Rail - an arts, heritage and community initiative in his hometown of Northampton that brings together theatre, photography, co-creation, oral histories, seminars and film.
Andy trained in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck, during which he was the resident trainee director at Royal Exchange in Manchester. Prior to this he studied English with Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham.
Andy regularly develops new work and has directed multiple script readings. He is an associate artist with National Youth Theatre and frequently works with drama schools and universities.
You can find out more about Andy on his website: https://www.andyroutledge.com/
Carmel Smickersgill is a Manchester based artist working within predominantly electronic and classical genres. She has released music with the label PRAH and written for ensembles and performers such as the Liverpool Philharmonic, BCMG, Laura Bowler and Equilibrium Quartet to name a few.
She was a 2021 recipient of the Jerwood Live Art Fund a, 2020 Ivor Novello nominee and a 2019 recipient of the Christopher Brooks composition prize with the Liverpool Philharmonic. Her music has regularly been played on BBC radio 6 music and BBC radio 3, and she has performed live on Marc Riley’s show with alternative pop band Bunny Hoova.
Carmel studied Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music with Gary Carpenter. In 2021 she was made an associate member of the college. Carmel is now mentored with Anna Meredith.
Jim Dawson is a Creative Director who specialises in mixing analogue and digital technologies to achieve unique and innovative productions.
In 2015 Jim co-founded TripleDotMakers LTD with long time collaborator Annie Woodson. TripleDotMakers are a moving image and sound studio working across the music industry, museums, galleries, theatres and other cultural and commercial organisations. Their work often uses participatory practice, engaging local communities in the creation, curation and installation of the work. Their outputs range from Interactive art works, documentary film, animations and projection mapped installations, continually mixing up techniques to find new ways of engaging audiences with the places and people we work with.
Briony O’Callaghan (she/her) trained as an actor in Manchester (Arden, 1st BA (hons) Acting) and then as a maker, mover and collaborator at Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Paris for two years (2012-2014). She is a director, performer, theatre maker, writer and movement director. Her work has been supported by ACE; Arts Council Norway; The Grotowski Institute, Poland; The Pleasance; HOME mcr; Grusomhetens Teater, Oslo; Sychrono Teatro, Athens; Topi Dalmata, Italy; Bloomsbury Festival; RADA and Rose Bruford. She regularly directs, facilitates workshops and teaches in the UK and internationally. Organisations she has worked with in this capacity include RADA, Rose Bruford, The Arden, Salford Uni, East 15, The Point and Turtle Key Arts. As a collaborative deviser and movement specialist she has worked with companies including Making Faces Theatre, Vamos, Liz Richardson, The Pleasance, Mark Winstanley, Mark Bell (The Play That Goes Wrong). In this capacity she works regularly with Flabbergast (Macbeth, The Grotowski Institute; The Swell Mob, Edinburgh Fringe, Critics Choice Award); Babel (The Fall, HOME Mcr; The Orpheus Project, Rich Mix); David Glass Ensemble (Mortgage; Galapagos; Lost Child Project; Silence). She is core member with these companies and artistic director of Created a Monster. https://www.brionyocallaghan.com
Diana Mumbi is a theatre maker and performance artist. She has worked at the Young Vic Theatre and was part of their Introduction to Directing training course. Diana is a member of The Island, an artist development programme led by imPOSSIBLE Producing. Diana absolutely loves swimming!
Sarah Goodyear trained in Production Arts (Stage Management, Lighting and Sound) at Liverpool Community College. Credits include: Aladdin (Oldham Coliseum Theatre),Invisible Cities (Manchester International Festival and Brisbane Festival), Twelfth Night (Octagon Theatre, Bolton), Pomona (Royal Exchange Theatre), The Tale of Mr Tumble (Opera House, Manchester), The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca (Hull Capital of Culture), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Northern Stage and Royal & Derngate), Mother Courage and Her Children (Headlong, Royal Exchange Theatre), There Has Possibly Been an Incident (Soho Theatre), How to Fly Like a Reindeer (Hull Truck Theatre), Too Clever by Half (Told by an Idiot, Royal Exchange Theatre), The Last Days of Troy (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre).
Hannah is a British/Syrian performance designer based in Yorkshire. Since training at Wimbledon School of Art in London she has designed over 80 productions across Europe including theatre, film, music videos and installations, and collaborating with directors, writers, choreographers and composers. She also often leads design workshops for arts organisations, community centres, theatre festivals, schools and universities.
Theatre design credits include: Love n Stuff (Oldham Coliseum), The Magic of Wild Heather (James Blakey, CAST and National Theatre Public Acts), Meet Me At Dawn (Ellie Rose, Hope Mill Theatre), Outrageous Fortune (Deborah Newbold and dir: John Wright), The Travelling Pantomime (Juliet Forster, York Theatre Royal) (The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Tutti Frutti), Gwei Mui (Jennifer Tang), The Elves and the Shoemakers (Juliet Forster, York Theatre Royal), Two (Tom Wright, Gala Theatre), Where We Began (SBC Theatre), War with the Newts (Knaive Theatre), Vulture's Song (Blah Blah Blah), 666 Comments (Daniel Bye), Pygmalion and Handbagged (Tom Wright, English Theatre Frankfurt), Instructions for Border Crossing (Alex Swift, Daniel Bye), The Astonishing Vacuum Cleaner Adventure (Sarah Punshon), WANTED (Chris Goode and Company), Instant Light Circus Company (Slung Low), Under the Bed (154 Collective), Bassett (Javaad Alipoor, Sheffield Crucible), Phone Home (Upstart Theatre), Weekend Rockstars (Middle Child), Mr Tiger Goes Wild (Goblin), When We Were Brothers and Home Sweet Home (Freedom Studios), SET FIRE TO EVERYTHING!!! (RashDash) The Situation Room (Oscar Mike) and Country Music (West Yorkshire Playhouse).
Paul is a freelance Lighting Designer, Production/Project Manager
Paul’s lighting credits include:Exquisite Sister,Four Nights in Knaresborough (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Romeo and Juliet (Young Vic Theatre); M.Butterfly (Singapore Repertory Theatre).Midsummer Nights Dream (World Tour)Romeo and Juliet (Spoletto Festival USA).Duchess of Malfi,L`Ormindo ,The Knight of the Burning Pestle,Cymbeline (Sam Wannamaker Playhouse,London) Closer(Royal National Theatre/Tour); Two Gentlemen of Verona (European tour) Farinelli and the King by Clare Van Kampen (Sam Wannamaker Playhouse) ,(Duke of Yorks Theatre Westend) and The Balasco Theatre New York for which Paul got a Tony Award nomination for Outstanding Lighting Design of a Play 2017. Loves Labours Lost, Macbeth, After Edward, Taming of the Shrew and Women Beware Women (Sam Wannamaker Playhouse, London)
A Woman of No Importance UK Tour 2019
The Other Place, (Park Theatre and Theatre by the Lake)
Sleeping Beauty (Cumbria Tour) 2021
Paul also designs Lighting systems – recent credits include
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – Kings Place London – Willow Globe North Wales Edinburgh Park (opening Sept 2022)
imPOSSIBLE Producing is a Cornwall based covid response producing company producing locally and Nationally, supporting and developing artists and new work. imPOSSIBLE is led by experienced producers Charlie Bunker (Wildworks, Arts Council, Kerpow) and Gabby Vautier (Young Vic, Barbican, Kneehigh, Manchester International Festival, Punchdrunk, Fertility Fest). In their first year they launched The Island programme of sessions and retreats for artists, activists and producers. They produced Pagan Pandemonium created by Seamas Carey at New Wolsey, we’re commissioned by the Royal Docks to create a large scale outdoor co-created promenade production ARRIVAL with director Matthew Dunster and a team of artists, and supported Theatre Royal Plymouth, NSDF and Young Vic with new initiatives for developing artists in production, choreography, producing and VR.
SWIM is one of 15 productions imPOSSIBLE are currently working to make possible.
TEAM work in the arts; producing, managing, marketing and touring high quality work from a range of organisations. TEAM provide a bespoke and comprehensive range of services, tailored to the individual needs of their clients.
TEAM have a passion for touring, and have 20 years’ experience of producing, managing and marketing work on the small, mid and large scale in the UK and overseas.
Current clients include Shakespeare North Playhouse, Not Too Tame, Eden District Council, Shared Experience and Haworth Tompkins.