REVIEW: Airswimming, Headgate Theatre, Colchester ✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Airswimming, a play by Charlotte Jones at the Headgate Theatre, Colchester.


Headgate Theatre, Colchester
3 November 2023
4 Stars

Charlotte Jonse’s beautifully crafted play is based on a true story and becomes the tale of Dora and Persephone, incarcerated for decades in a home for the “morally decrepit”. Their crimes? For Persephone, it’s having a baby out of wedlock, for Dora it’s the loss of all her brothers in the Great War, and her trauma leads her to create a cigar smoking, military character, not acceptable in her surroundings. To cope, especially when they are released into the community in the 1970s, they adopt alter egos of Dorph and Morph. Persephone enters the institution in 1924, the year Doris Day was born, which becomes significant as she grows to worship her outside of her incarceration.

The play is beautifully performed, Rachel Cummins maintaining Dorph’s military persona throughout, even when the layers are peeled off and we see her past trauma. The contrast with Laura-Kate Nice’s Porph is wonderfully maintained, and Nice makes her a realistic, rounded character, quite a feat given Dorph’s large flights of fantasy. The play moves between comedy and sadness and the actors chime with the change of tone beautifully, especially when they dance and, their ultimate creation, the go “Airswimming”. The bond that grows between the two is utterly convincing, captivating the audience.

Currently on tour in East Anglia, Westacre Theatre’s show is a portable delight, and pays tribute to those forgotten women and the horrific crimes carried out against them. The direction by Andy Naylor and Issy Huckle brings out every nuance of the text, and it’s one not to be missed. The tour continues to The Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne, The Courtyard, London, Wells Maltings and Southwold Arts Centre. Check out individual online brochures.

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