REVIEW: lifeguard – Govanhill Baths, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer: Adrian Howells

Dramaturg: Rob Drummond

Choreographer: Jane Mason

Composer: Nichola Scrutton

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The audience gather at the entrance to the Edwardian venue and are led to changing rooms. Some change into swimwear whilst some remain in the clothes in which they came. There’s nervous chatter and looks of apprehension, others sit in complete silence awaiting what’s to come, because what is to come is not clear, but holds the promise of being a theatrical experience that few, if any of us, have contemplated before. Seated on three sides of a small swimming pool, in an intimate room, in the recently re-opened Govanhill Baths, we are here to see Adrian Howells’ lifeguard, billed as a “multi-sensory poolside encounter,” a work which explores man’s complex and often ambiguous relationship with water.

The audience take to their seats, clad in towels and wait. The atmospheric surroundings of this crumbling building, and the blurring of the boundaries between performer and viewer evoke feelings of vulnerability at what lies ahead and indeed, what lies beneath the water. Howells enters and begins to cast the hypnotic spell of movement, visuals and sound, which takes us on an evocative, emotive and very personal, contemplative sensory journey to the heart of our feelings about water. Soon after a man, (Ira Mandela Siobhan) rises to his feet, strips to his trunks and joins Howells, representing, through beautifully mesmeric movement, his personal connection with this life sustaining and life-threatening medium. Both men, through the strength of their performances have the ability to change in a heartbeat the emotions of this seemingly fascinated audience. When they are joined by two other swimmers at the end, the narrative is complete, returning us to the emotional connection the local community have with this beloved building.

Every audience member will come to this experience with different emotional baggage, for some water will hold only happy memories, for some it may revive deep-seated fears and for some, especially those from the local area, the feeling will be sheer nostalgia, revisiting this building after an eleven year fight for its survival. This personal relationship with water will inform each audience member’s response to this piece. Go along, allow it to take you on a journey, and be prepared to be disconcerted, amazed, stimulated and moved, and above all, revel in the warmth and joy of this highly emotive and original piece.

Photo: Peter Dibdin

Runs until: 27th October

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