Start Swimming: patronising the yoof

Christian Butler

Topics Culture

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The Young Vic has brought a new play to the Edinburgh Fringe called Start Swimming. While featuring a talented young cast, it fails to live up to the tremendous hype surrounding it. It’s a symbolic representation of the ‘pressures’ young people face, with a script that patronises the younger generation in the name of compassion.

It’s such an inane allegory – thrashing in the waves – that you can’t work out whether it’s more pretentious or condescending. The play is also painfully repetitive, with phrases like ‘what are you doing here?!’ echoing throughout the show. These leitmotifs aren’t hypnotic, they’re mildly irritating. Start Swimming attempts to give voice to the yoof, but collapses into detached virtue-signalling.

Its sound design is brilliant, with various bizarre noises and strange pop-culture samples constantly interrupting the actors on stage. But you know a play has problems when you pick out the sound design as the best thing about it.


Christian Butler is a spiked columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @CPAButler

Start Swimming is at Summerhall until 13 August.

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