REVIEW: When The Long Trick’s Over, Mercury Theatre Colchester ✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play When The Long Trick’s Over presented by High Tide and the New Wolsey at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.

When The Long Trick's Over
Stacey Ghent and Shenagh Govan in When the Long Trick’s Over. Photo: Will Green

When The Long Trick’s Over.
Mercury Theatre
3 March 2022
3 Stars
Mercury Theatre Website

A swimmer attempts to cross the English Channel, fighting not just tides, ships, and jellyfish, but also a threatening tidal wave of memories and grief. She is attempting the crossing in memory of her sister, carrying out her cross-channel ambition, and, as it turns out, memories of her dead mother too. It’s not just the darkness of the water underneath her that scares her, it’s confrontation of the past, and, at times, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play plunges those depths. Other times, it lacks nuance and feels a little shallow, particularly in the over-long opening monologue, and it takes a while for the play to find its rhythm.

When The Long Trick's Over
Stacey Ghent in When the Long Trick’s Over. Photo: Will Green

However, its staging is massively impressive, actor Stacey Ghent suspended in mid-air, her movements controlled, the excellent lighting and video design by Gillian Tan, and a haunting soundscape by Esther Kehinde Ajayi, make this is mesmerising picture, and only theatre can provide such a unique presentation like this. Ghent is superb, the swimmer staving off tiredness by listing top ten 90s tunes and top ten swear words, (there is perhaps too much swearing, lessening its impact), but finally unable to keep memories at bay as she gives in to grief. Mum, Shenagh Govan, appears to be not a natural nurturer, attaching blame to the swimmer, and issues of body shaming, giving up tasks, all the complexities of mother and daughter relationships come into sharp, raw play. Some of this felt a little didactic in places, and the play is poorly structured, and the reveal of what happened to the sister is neither unexpected or emotional, with Mum’s conversion to cheerleader as the French coast approaches feeling a little forced- she has been far too spiteful.

In saying that, the physicality of the swimmer and the acrobatic twirling and physicality makes this a visual feast. However, it feels that the staging is often compensating for the script, and I would have loved to have known more about Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926. Her story, thrown in at the end of this play, is fascinating and troubling, and perhaps her presence is what’s missing from this play.

When The Long Trick’s Over is visiting the following venues:-

Until Sat 5th March – Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Tuesday 8th – Wednesday 9th March Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
Thursday 10th March – The Cut, Halesworth


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