When The Long Trick’s Over (touring)

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play about female swimmers, grief and family is currently touring and has two more stops at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft on 8-9 March, and The Cut, Halesworth on 10 March.

My review is of the live stream which I was given access to following its transmission in February, via the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich.

Set in the 1990s and produced (appropriately) by HighTide, the play is directed by Chinonyerem Odimba, designed by Grace Smart, with aerial and movement by Vicki Dela Amedume (artistic director of Upswing), video and lighting design by Gillian Tan, and sound design by Esther Kehinde Ajayi.

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We meet the swimmer as she addresses us from a set design which allows her to appear to float, travel, and stand. She’s chatty, familiar, and in a bathing costume and cap.

The area in which she is contained has quotations projected upon it, and hosts lighting changes which give a sense of open water swimming, the challenge of physical endeavour, and a state of mind.

Time is as fluid as water: the script moves backwards and forwards, sometimes easily, at other times with a considerable effort. When The Long Trick’s Over is about strength, memory, mums and daughters, growing up, nostalgia, and moving on.

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This one-act play is a tight two-hander; essentially a monologue carried by Stacey Ghent as the swimmer but with important work by Shenagh Govan as Mum. The channel swim is being done for the sister whose dream it was before fate decreed otherwise. Now she’s out there, the sister who loathes sport, keeping afloat in this weird underwater world.

As a digital version, it was a shame that the camera stayed pulled back for a large chunk of the drama. I appreciate this was to showcase the video and aerial work. Not seeing the actor’s expression, just hearing her voice and watching her movements at a remove, didn’t quite pull me in as much as it could. It is also a piece to watch with headphones to appreciate the complex sound design.

As with Malcolm’s previous work, Emilia and Mum, there are moments of humour as well as deep emotion. When The Long Trick’s Over is just as much a roar of grief as bad karaoke, and it benefits from both.

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Ghent (a deaf actress, whose core strength must be amazing as she spends all that time suspended on wires) is fearless throughout, and Govan is strong in support as the voice which both chafes and consoles. She isn’t really there, but her spirit’s voice never flags when present.

The relationship between the two women here, and the lost sister, is clearly shown, and the script is conversational as well as profound. Although the trickle of water and the sense of bleakness is key throughout, this is also about how we cope with loss, and who we become as we grow to understand and accept what life has given us.

For more details and to book to see When The Long Trick’s Over, go to the show’s website here.

Image credit: Will Green Photography