Eccentric in one man show about the life of Jabez Wolffe who attempted to win the Channel 22 times
Everyone loves a trier. Giles Croft's one man show, written and performed by him, with direction by Diamond Pie Award winner Liz Carruthers (this is her 25th production for Oran Mor) may take a while to find some buoyancy, but it's worth sticking with. Part lecture, part almost stand-up show, a bit meta, Croft tells the bizarre true tale of Glaswegian Jabez Wolffe, a heavy-set man and his 22 attempts to swim the Channel from 1906-1914.
Twenty-two vignettes represent each attempt, and the very droll Croft in his dickie bow resembles an old-fashioned academic who wants to cut loose from the lectern, acknowledging his own mid-life crisis running parallel to Wolffe's. His performance is a little tentative at first, but he gets into his stride, cruising on the bonhomie of the crowd, using wittily selected archive footage of the swimmer; a greased-up mannequin and half-hearted attempt at a blues version of 'Cock O The North'.
It's something of an acquired taste, and not for everyone, but there are moments that are oddly touching, and others simply batshit crazy. Jelly fish stings, sharks, wind power and injuries may have thwarted Wolffe's attempts, but he found triumphs in coaching women, including the first woman to swim the Channel, Gertrude Ederle, thereby doing his bit for female emancipation. An iconic status followed. This show may not be perfect, but it never fails to be insightful, warm-hearted and humane – well worth a dip.
Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Sat 8 Apr; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 10--Fri 14 Apr.