Review: A Brief Encounter with Rachel Krische in The Swimmer at Purcell Room, Southbank Centre

Performance: 7 & 8 Oct 08
Reviewed by Mary Kate Connolly - Friday 10 October 2008

Performance: 8 Oct 08

Rachel Krische is swimming. Jerking, hurtling and stuttering across the wooden boards of the Purcell Room stage. Dressed in a red t-shirt, frilled, ballooning underpants and her characteristic black rimmed glasses, she cuts an intriguing, if slightly disarming figure. In the stark and plainly lit stage, a world is conjured; one in which Krische seems a complicit, bemused prisoner. Her fraught trajectory of twitches, stamps and judders occasionally gives way to a flowing sequence of movement which charts a blissfully free and less demented path, before returning to her previous bodily labours.

Gradually, between the movements, she begins to speak – a barely audible whisper ‘come see me…’ . We are in the realm of a child’s dream now; Krische smiling conspiratorially, as if enjoying her new found power over her present, beguiling quandary. Then suddenly, her speech becomes guttural, incomprehensible – she is tripping herself over a nonsense language which she cannot quite get her tongue around. At this moment, the mood turns darker and nightmarish – she desperately tries to find her voice, and to unlock her body from its looped lurches. I am reminded of the dreams one has of being chased, and the panicky feeling of legs being leaden and impossible to move.

Our brief encounter with Krische continued in this whimsical, funny, and at times distressing vein, holding audience rapt until completion. Sometimes she sang, growled, or exhaled noisily. Sometimes she ran, or stood totally still, with head cocked, to make mischievous eye contact with members of the audience. Her title The Swimmer seemed totally appropriate for this quirky journey – Krische in her charming and alarming fashion was attempting to breathe underwater it seemed, swim through honey, and find a way to chart the enchanting underworld upon which she had happened to stumble.

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