Walk Swiftly and With Purpose is a deeply entertaining, funny, and unsettling play. It is a remarkable ‘classroom play,’ which doesn’t trade a youthful scenario for a youthful message. Siofra Dromgoole’s script uses a moment of youth to establish a powerful and unflinching stance about the failures of adulthood, whilst providing a sensitive play-by-play of four teenage girls taking ownership of their desires.
The play is a stellar example of the merits of interspersing high comedy with sudden seriousness. Ninety percent of Walk Swiftly and With Purpose is light-hearted and endearing. The other ten are uncomfortable and frank gut punches – occasionally delivered directly to the audience as soliloquy, or embedded within rapid-fire remarks that leave an emotional aftermath that can be measured on the Richter-scale.
Actors Grianne Dromgoole (Eve), Theodra Mead (Robbie), Miranda Shamiso (Misha), Looby Mills (Lana), play four young women on the cusp of agency. They understand that the adults in their lives are flawed, and that agency and independence are character traits which need to be tried and tested whilst they still have the relative safety of college education. The relationship between committing to action and simulating action in this play is highly intelligent, and the tether between the four actors is genuine and tender as they walk this tightrope. Dominic Rawson (Mr Hughes), exemplifies a psychologically dangerous schoolmaster. As the only character with organisational power, Rawson’s portray is at times skin-crawling and deeply uncomfortable.
The script incorporates poetry effectively without weighing itself down with extraneous imagery. Discussions of dead poets and their meanings are political enough to be societally relevant, yet contained enough to not become a didactic diatribe. The play is set in and out of a classroom and yet never feels like a lecture; indicating a lot of work from the entire creative team to create a nuanced package.
‘Classroom plays’ can often be pigeon-holed into being plays about growing up, or the ups and downs of being a student. Walk Swiftly and with Purpose is more complex than that. It is more about the fine line between transposing motivations into actual performance, and how muddled and mucky that business can be. It’s about taking control of the self, whilst having no real idea of how to do so. It is a tender play with standout performances from emerging actors, which is thoroughly enjoyable and yet alienating and unnerving. Within this script are memories and regrets that plenty of adults in the audience will recognise, as well as an anger directed towards adulthood itself – at imperfect and occasionally malicious seniors who use their experience as a weapon.
In Walk Swiftly and with Purpose, inexperience is sacrificed for something else – something which will, in time, become experience. It is both a celebration of the process, as well as a swansong. A must-see when the chance comes around again.
Walk Swiftly and With Purpose ran at The Space on the Mile as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival between 13 – 25 August 2018. For further information, please click here.