Art of Swimming Reviews
Tiny Dynamite presents Lynda Radley’s ‘The Art of Swimming’
by Mark Cofta, December 9, 2017, Broad Street Review
Lynda Radley’s The Art of Swimming could just as easily be titled The Art of Storytelling. Her one-woman show, in Tiny Dynamite’s splendid production, serves a dual purpose. It shares both the story of Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to swim the English Channel (in 1927), and the playwright’s discovery of her tale in 2015 in the Cork City Library’s dusty archives.
Daniel Ison and Lee Minora use bold strokes to tell Gleitze’s tale. (Photo by Emilie Krause)
Both stories are gripping — full of challenges, doubts, and triumphs despite overwhelming odds – and each has a distinctive voice. Gleitze’s thoughts are shared with us directly, in first person; Radley’s, however, are written in second person. Lee Minora switches from her natural speaking voice to Gleitze’s clipped British accent, and from saying “I” as Gleitze to addressing us as “you” when Radley describes her writing efforts.
Under Kathryn MacMillan’s expert direction, Minora cheerfully plunges into both characters, switching suddenly while walking among us. Sara Outing’s scenic design uses four small areas in the Headhouse Café’s second-floor party room, with Minora walking, dashing, and even swimming through the room’s 10 tables. Outing’s props are easily accessible, hidden cleverly in each playing spot. Alyssandra Docherty’s lighting is deceptively simple, artfully transforming this multipurpose room into a theater.
Minora, a warm, welcoming, witty narrator, asks us to imagine being small-town poor people seeing a celebrity for the first time.
Much of the hourlong play concerns Gleitze’s drive for record-setting endurance swimming despite facing overwhelming sexism. Her Channel triumph was questioned because another woman falsely claimed to have done it; subsequently, the media of the day cast doubt on all women.
Gleitze scrupulously documented her many other achievements, such as being the first person to swim the Strait of Gibraltar. The play is not a compendium of events, however – marriage, children, and charity work are barely mentioned – but rather a personal, utterly captivating exploration of the long-distance swimmer’s psyche.
Subtler, but no less intimate, is Radley’s struggle to write Gleitze’s story despite a suffocating office job. Gleitze’s descriptions of swimming “a straight liquid line” despite distractions from without (jellyfish, cold, currents) and within (hunger, boredom, doubt) mirror the writer’s solitary efforts, which, in second-person address, become ours. Daniel Ison’s live musical accompaniment on guitar and piano, a continuous storytelling partner, enhances the juxtaposition and introspective mood, taking us deeper into both characters. The Art of Swimming amuses, mesmerizes, and stays with us long afterward.
You should know this part by now
Tiny Dynamite’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint is their version of the Oran Mor Theatre’s PPP in Glasgow, Scotland. One-act plays, usually an hour or less, are served with a pie (pizza here) and a pint (beer or soda – Headhouse Café’s vanilla stout is very nice) for an affordable price ($20) at a non-traditional time. In Scotland, it’s lunch; here, 6:30pm. Tiny Dynamite also offers a dessert performance – of, yes, pie! — on Saturdays at 9:30pm. The Art of Swimming is Tiny Dynamite’s seventh PPP. Next up is One-Night Stands, readings of short plays about love and sex for Valentine’s Day (February 14 – 16).
Theatre Review: Fascinating and unique experience with Tiny Dynamite Theater Company
by Dennis Bloh, December 10, 2017, Philly Review.
Tiny Dynamite Theater Company’s new Producing Artistic Director, the highly regarded K.C. MacMillan opens her tenure with a delightful piece of theater, THE ART OF SWIMMING by Irish playwright, Lynda Radley.
The patrons last night at the HeadHouse Café second floor were treated to a fascinating, unique performance from the charming, Lee Minora and the musically talented Daniel Ison.
In this basically one woman play, Lee Minora plays both the playwright and Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to swim the English Channel. Minora slips with great facility between the two characters. She does an amazing job delineating the characters from the bookish playwright, Lynda Radley and the driven, singularly focused, Mercedes Gleitze. I had no trouble identifying who was talking and the playwright did a good job keeping the segments to an enjoyable length. Ms. Minora is especially charming while inhabiting the character of Gleitze. She embraces the character’s thought process, giving us insight into the discipline that is necessary for someone to accomplish such an Herculean feat. She also captures the fear and doubt that Gleitze experienced along the way.
Another aspect of the play that I found interesting was the use of language. Lynda Radley imbues her play with a multitude of metaphors and similes initially to explain specific aspects of long distance swimming, but ultimately to emphasize the over arching metaphor of the play. It soars past the individual accomplishment of one woman to the fleeting nature of fame and the ability of one determined person to bring that fame back to life if only briefly.
Supporting Ms. MacMillan’s vision is the music of Daniel Ison who effortlessly punctuates the words of the play with his subtle instrumentations. In addition, Alyssandra Docherty’s lighting design nicely nuances the space as Ms. Minora races throughout the audience.
The American premiere of The Art of Swimming plays at the second floor of the HeadHouse Café, 122 Lombard Street until December 17th. Being part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint, you receive a slice of pie and a glass of beer or soda along with this wonderful one-hour experience in theater. For tickets and more information visit www.tinydynamite.org.
Review: ‘The Art of Swimming’ at Tiny Dynamite
by Deb Miller December 8, 2017, DC Metro Theater Arts