Swimming the Channel is no small feat. Exploring the power of the female body in her creative play When The Long Trick's Over, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm has written a piece that encapsulates the feelings that come with endurance as a woman confronts what appears to be an unbeatable challenge.
Immediately creating the illusion of being plunged into the sea, Stacey Ghent plays the main role, who impressively remains to appear 'swimming' through her movements using aerial choreography for the entire duration of the show. Despite this initial magic wearing off after a while, the effect holds its importance while reflecting the resilience and determination highlighted.
She speaks with depth, even when conducting the many lines that are bitterly funny. From listing her top ten 90s tunes (which were definitely agreeable choices), to recalling various memories from previous times in her life, the unnamed central character presents as sassy and confident, which adds dimension to the later developments of her personality as the voyage continues. It is soon revealed that both her sister, who she is enduring the swim for, has passed away, as well as her mother, who is represented by the accomplished Shenagh Govan. Making her entrance with a half questionable rendition of En Vogue's 'Don't Let Go', When The Long Trick's Over moves forwards and backwards in time to narrate the often harsh connection between them, and lasting impact of this, particularly with regards to body image and femininity, alongside the swim. Although it becomes difficult to follow at times, the overall message still remains clear, and the script is articulated well, and while there are some props to illustrate in conjunction with the dialogue (notably, Jelly Babies), the minimal staging aspects leaves the storyline in the perfectly apt language chosen, which is Morgan's forte as a writer. A little poetry is intertwined too, as an addition to the constant projection of water to simulate the sea throughout the rhythmic swimming process.
The solitary endeavour across the Channel depicts fear faced at external factors, but mostly the darkest enemy being the thoughts that fester over the course of the perilous journey. It shows the strength of women, and the ability to push through to celebrate this, both physically and mentally, even went feeling small in a vast space. However, this piece also accentuates the reality of being judged as a female, and the weight of the words from others and what we tell ourselves that can change who we are.
Stacey and Shenagh are commendable both individually and as a pair with their conversation bouncing back and forth to depict the difficultly navigated family relationships and emotions that come with them.
Overall, When The Long Trick's Over is a highly unusual piece made by a wonderfully diverse creative team with a focus on female liberation. Despite the lack of extravagance and interesting stage presence beyond the unexpected initial swimming appearance, an important message still shines through.