Saturday, 31 May 1997

In at the Deep End by Anthea Davis, May 31, 1997

In at the Deep End by Anthea Davis
at La Mama until June 8, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around May 30, 1997

Anthea Davis in her solo show, In at the Deep End, has great warmth and generosity as a performer. Her complicity and engagement with the audience at La Mama draws us into her intimate journey through water.

Behind a beach screen she changes coyly into one spectacular one-piece bathing suit after another. It is a Retro swim collection. She makes witty observations of women's bathing-suit etiquette, mirror checks, the tricks we use to cover peeping buttocks or disguise a curvy tummy with a wrap-around towel.ˆ

We do a marathon with a woman who has failed once and tries again. We observe her joy and pain, elation and deflation in both failure and success.

Davis intercuts these more poignant and poetic scenes with personal water recollections and facts about Australian women swimmers.  She recalls the blue plastic back-yard pool and the 'No peeing in the pool' rule. "I broke it the first day. I didn't want to get out."

Her own youthful swimming training begins as ambition with dad's support. The 4.30am starts drive her to the A Team but eventually become routine. She quips, "It's hard to have a relationship when you're in the water all the time." Her more recent lap-swim, fortuitously alongside Daniel Kowalski at the State Swim Centre, resulted in a personal best.

She floats upright in space. The soundscape is the regular breath of the swimmer. We experience vicariously the silence of the water, the euphoric endorphin release of the lap swimmer, the delusions of the marathon swimmer.

The piece begins with some beautiful video footage of synchronised swimming. Unfortunately its second episode got lost in video ether. Pity.

Director Luke Elliot has kept the pace smooth and scene changes crisp and simple.

Annette Kellerman changed the beach rules for us by trimming down women's bathing costumes and by her quirky stunts. She performed in a tank filled with fish and eels (made me squirm). The 1912 Stockholm Olympics with no government financial support. We may believe that women's sports are treated as second class but at the turn of the century things were far grimmer.

This is a short, sweet and funny show and, whether you love the water or not, you'll find much to engage you.


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