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I’m standing in my bathroom after a day’s work, feeling rather curious. I’m in my swimming costume with a towel around my neck, as instructed. I giggle to myself and think “Well, I’ve never experienced a piece of theatre in the bath before.”
Oh yes! Swimming Home is a meditative audio experience, encouraging an audience of one to indulge and be fascinated by the wonders of water – all from the safety of their own home. In association with Bristol Old Vic, Silvia Mercuriali blends verbatim interviews of swimmers and coaches, with fictional and fantastical storytelling. I can assure you; you’ve never had a bath like this before.
After downloading a couple of apps before the performance time, the audio stream begins a countdown, then automatically plays. Once you’ve plugged in your headphones, you’re pretty much good to go. (Luckily, I’ve got wireless headphones but there are instructions for those who don’t.)
To start with, the audio is a little bit unsettling as snippets of interviews are combined with snippets of a heavily edited voice – it might possibly be too jarring and edgy as an introduction to a relatively relaxing piece.
Now my instinct is to jump straight into the bath, but a lot of the piece is about experiencing the now and preparing you to get in the bath, almost in a ritualistic manner. One of the first things you’re asked to do is turn on the tap at your sink. This in turn, will release the water in the pipes, but also the voice that will lead you through this journey. Now, I’ve been brought up to save water at every opportunity, so I found it quite stressful to indefinitely turn on the tap.
Swimming Home assumes a lot about your bathroom. For example, it assumes that you have a mirror in there, and as I don’t, I feel like I miss out on a few fun moments … as I try to see my reflection in my tap. It also assumes you can spread your arms wide, like a bird, which I’m still trying to figure out logistically.
However, in saying that, there are some lovely unique moments where I engage with, and truly appreciate, the water in many different ways; light touches, making waves, creating ripples. My imagination runs wild as I’m asked to remember the first swimming pool I ever went to, or I’m asked to imagine my shampoo cap as a tiny boat being hit by a monsoon of waves, that my own hands are creating. These are the moments that work best.
Swimming Home encourages your inner-child and sense of play, and it’s undoubtedly one of those experiences where you get out what you put in. Whilst theatres remain closed, why not get your theatrical fix, experience something different, and get swimming in your bath? (PS. This experience also works in showers).
Swimming Home is available to stream online until 20 March. For more information and tickets see the Bristol Old Vic website.