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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lifeguard, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

National Theatre of Scotland/Arches/Govanhill Baths Community Trust

EVEN a trip to the swimming baths is full of ritual. First comes the initiation ceremony of changing room, wire basket and wristband – just as it is here in Adrian Howells's literally immersive performance in the out-of-use Govanhill Baths, Glasgow. We prepare for this show just as we prepared for childhood visits to the local pool: clothes off, trunks on, towel at the ready.

And it is with a ritualistic poise that Howells joins us as we sit on benches around the teaching pool. Seemingly in a world of his own, he manipulates the long brush to clean the tiled surface, stands alongside the lithe form of swimmer Ira Mandela Siobhan and gazes across the water with its rippling projections of bodies torpedoing by.

It takes time to adjust to the meditative pace of this National Theatre of Scotland and Arches production. For a while, it seems Howells has little more to offer than a minor childhood anecdote about being pushed into the deep end by his father.

Gradually, however, the impressionistic images take hold, be it the rough-and-tumble of dive-bombing boys, or the dreamy memory of standing naked in an Aegean rock pool. We are in the world of the civic amenity, but sometimes Lifeguard recalls the shimmering beauty of David Hockney's Californian poolside paintings.

By the time we meet a man who learned to swim in Govanhill Baths (now under the management of a community trust), and applaud a young learner as he completes a couple of lengths, our minds are awash with the memories of water. It is then with a joyous sense of communal sharing that we put our towels down and enter the pool ourselves.

Before home time, there are two more rituals left: a mug of hot chocolate and a teeth-chattering return to the changing rooms.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (pic: Peter Dibdin)

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