Start Swimming review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘uniformly terrific cast’

Start Swimming by Young Vic's Taking part company. Photo: Helen Murray Start Swimming by Young Vic's Taking part company. Photo: Helen Murray

“What are you doing here?” is the question posed to the young people in Start Swimming, and the reply goes, “standing on the grass”: a minor transgression which becomes a statement of political revolt. Made in parallel to Paul Mason’s Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere, this show by the Young Vic’s Taking Part scheme asks what power young people have to affect change and resist authority.

James Fritz’s minimalist text sees the cast navigate a dystopian game-structure in which they question each other and are rewarded for assuming voices of authority or conformity, and punished for resistance. They are law-abiding citizens, policemen, workers, employers, prisoners and executioners.

This simple conceit accrues weight as repetitive cycles of questions and answers show painfully little progress, and a bombastic sound design by Max Perryment – which samples everything from Bob Dylan to Pokemon –ratchets up the tension. The uniformly terrific cast exert themselves to their limits as they fight, sing and learn to speak – it’s exhausting to watch.

But while it strikes a complicated balance between optimism and cynicism, the show ultimately makes a galvanising case for solidarity in the face of a prevailing system which promises little to the young people of today.

Agitated exploration of political resistance