Start Swimming

Young people take control in James Fritz's powerful new play

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Start Swimming
Published 13 Aug 2017

We teach young people to follow the rules, or face punishment. Questioning authority and speaking out of turn are worthy of sanctions rather than praise. As is challenging your government over the cost of living, the state of your neighbourhood or arbitrary laws designed to keep the populace under control.

James Fritz’s powerful new play shows how young people are hemmed in and overwhelmed by societal pressures. Their modes of expression are taken away in order to suit the status quo. In this dystopian, Black Mirror-esque landscape of black and grey, and electric shocks for answering questions wrong, teenagers are trained. But they revolt, are nearly broken, then stand strong, even when their voices being literally taken away.

It’s inspiring to see an accurate depiction of young people – they aren’t the lazy, feckless creatures we often see in the media. They’re passionate, engaged and they want to change the world around them, but the system won’t let them. It’s a potent reminder to listen to our young people and take them seriously. There are some cheesy moments reminiscent of GCSE Drama. But there are some that resonate with profundity – we pressure our children with the hopes that they will succeed where we’ve failed, and too many restrictions can send the most fragile souls over the edge.

It's thought-provoking stuff, backed up by excellent ensemble performances. An abstract text like this relies on the personalities of the young performers rather than imposing rigid characters on them. It allows their youthful hope and camaraderie to shine through, inspiring audiences of any age.