Theatre in Wales

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Five Star Reviews: “fiercely intelligent writer and compelling with a passionate story to tell”

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

The Bathtub Heroine- How to Swim in Hollywood , Mint Studio, Greenside @Infirmary St, Edinburgh , August 23, 2018
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by The Bathtub Heroine- How to Swim in Hollywood Websites come in every shade of quality. The Bathtub Heroine, founded in 2016, has a striking site. The visuals are strong- think Margot Robbie in “the Big Short.” It has a mission statement that is both crisp and forthright: “the creation of new heroines, bringing powerful and mesmerising female leading roles to stage. It is a company that aims to give a platform to emerging female talent throughout the entire process of theatre production.”

That is a good mission. The company was in Edinburgh in 2017 with “Sylvia Plath, Your Words Are Just Dust”. Alice Sylvester is reprising her performance on November 10th at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, NYC.

It is a general rule that companies that do the main thing well have a tendency to do all the subsidiary things well. Every company has its all-important thumbnail description for the Fringe programme and site. These 33 words read “Beverly Hills, 1979. Submerge beneath the surface of L.A and into the mind of Daisy, a young housewife with a dreamy life that isn’t sweet. A darkly mesmerizing and psychological new play.”

That sets out what it is and what differentiates it from the three thousand other competing events. It is well written. The company credits for this Fringe, taken from a review site, are Alice Sylvester, writer and performer, Kate Poole and Beth Marnion, technical managers.

“How to Swim in Hollywood” earned five stars from the Edinburgh Guide 12th August. In excerpt:

“The iconic painting, “Beverly Hills Housewife” (1967) by David Hockney is a powerful portrait of a Betty Freeman, a tanned, sculptural figure in a bright pink dress, standing on the patio of her luxury mansion. This was the initial spark of imagination for Alice Sylvester as the period setting and subject for a play about the domestic role of women as wives and mothers in the 1960s and '70s.

...The year is 1979 and we are invited into Daisy’s bedroom at her Beverly Hills home overlooking the sprawling metropolis of City of Angels shimmering in the summer haze. Wearing a slinky, silk slip, her long wavy blonde hair flowing over her shoulders, the young woman sits pensively at her dressing table. She describes lying awake at night dreaming of crystal blue swimming pools, she bends backwards with gymnastic flair, her long blond hair flowing to the floor, as if floating, sinking under the water, her soft, curling waves rippling like jelly fish.

Her melancholy mood is echoed by Hollies' song "Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you." Although she is married to Michael, she is just a housewife and her sense of utter loneliness and entrapment is palpable. It would be a perfect night for a party, if only her friends could come. Daisy reminiscences the cinematic, technicolour scenes from her childhood: 1969, aged 10 and her mother as a perfectly manicured, coiffed woman of beauty as if stepping out of the pages of The Stepford Wives, the suburban, submissive robots of sci-fi fantasy.

...As “The Bathtub Heroine”, Alice Sylvester is a fiercely intelligent writer and compelling actress with a passionate story to tell. In her debut play last year, she gave a truly hypnotic, passionate 5 star performance as Sylvia Plath. Once again, this is a finely tuned serene, sensual, sensitive performance with dark, dramatic insight and poetic imagination.”

Broadway Baby was at “How to Swim in Hollywood” August 6th. Also five stars, in excerpt from a powerful review:

“...The slow, seemingly drunk Daisy recounts the childhood moments that made her into a housewife, whose only achievement is marrying a movie star.

Daisy describes her desperate desire to become a woman with such powerful images and metaphors that only make her disappointment more devastating. She is told she never has to worry because she is beautiful and her father influential. She is humiliated for not knowing something she has never been taught. She understands how her life revolves around men, and her base need to be with one in order to be a woman.

Sylvester taps into every modern female insecurity in the most poetic and beautiful way imaginable. To understand the complexities surrounding womanhood, I strongly recommend How to Swim in Hollywood as the place to start.

...Sylvester is undoubtedly a star on the rise, unafraid to let her presence fill the silence. Such a command of the stage and of spoken word is evident from the beginning, and her almost childlike voice shows Daisy’s true vulnerability. All characters are played by Sylvester herself, and the seamless transitions between them provide a rude disturbance of Daisy’s thoughts. The sense of being overwhelmed by the views of others is perfectly realised by the metaphor of drowning, and Sylvester’s elegant movement brings swimming-pool memories to life. Her performance is entrancing, her words poetic, and her message is one that raises more questions than it answers.”

The audience reports are in the same vein. “Go see this show! ...The writing and acting are fantastic, the story is beautifully told.” “...expertly written, nuanced and subtle in its message. It's played wonderfully sympathetically too. Quite a tricky topic, especially in the wake of recent events, but handled with an expertise that is truly impressive.”

The reviews can be read at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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