50 years incarcerated at the Swan

CHARLOTTE Jones wrote her first play, Airswimming, in 1997, and went on to create works including the award-winning Humble Boy for theatre and many works for television.

This first play gets its Yeovil debut on stage at the Swan Theatre from 13th to 18th May, in a production directed by Sarah Ambrose. Described as “a gravity-defying tale of enduring friendship”, it is based on the true stories of Miss Kitson and Miss Baker, who have been incarcerated in St. Dymphna’s Hospital for the Criminally Insane, because they bore illegitimate children. With no idea of the reason of her imprisonment, bewildered Persephone retreats into her own fantasy world. A mutual love for Doris Day facilitates a connection with her fellow inmate Dora, who is traumatised by the loss of her brothers in the Great War.

With its dizzying narrative, Airswimming portrays a humorous and tender account of female camaraderie. Forgotten by their families and not released until the 1970s, the two girls adopt alter-egos, Dorph and Porph, and enact fantasies to survive the silence of incarceration. The play spans a 50-year period during which the two inmates have a lot of time to kill. They clean, tell stories and occasionally go “airswimming”.

The play is a reminder of the forgotten women for whom this was a regular fate in both Britain and Ireland. At it’s heart is a story about friendship and hope, with warmth and never-ending resilience.

At the Swan, designer Sian Spencer has created a set to depict the asylum. She says: “Criminal asylum huh? To fascinating inmates huh? Build a set? Ok, so no treading water, in at the deep end but I managed to keep my head above water … from this model to … oh you’ll have to come and enjoy this clever, funny, moving play to see how it came to life! This is my first design from beginning to end … with a little help from a talented team.”

Performances at the Swan begin at 7.45 nightly. Don’t miss it.


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