Review: BBC’s wild swimming drama ‘Wild Things’

The transformative Brighton Ladies Sea Swimming Club alters lives. Five very different women's paths cross at this tough wild swimming club

 

I imagine that it must be incredibly difficult writing about the relationship and emotion of wild swimming succinctly enough for 15 minutes of radio. You can’t show the enticing landscape, the sea with all its roughness but also softness or how the mood of the water sometimes reflects the mood of the swimmer. Instead of pictures writer Charlotte Jones uses words to open up the minds of five wild swimmers – the emotions are raw and laid out for us not to interpret, but to listen to with understanding.

I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t dangerous, if there wasn’t a chance I would die
— Davina, Wild Things

Each episode centres around a different member of the club. The internal monologues strike not just at the heart of what swimming is to these five women but what it is to all of us. Each character brings something unique to the story: but not unique to the lives we live as wild swimmers. At seventy years old, arthritic and grieving the loss of her son—who died during an attempted channel swim—Davina is the founding member of the club. She starts off as a grouchy old woman scolding fellow club member Jane for swimming in a wetsuit, but within mere minutes the water peels away those layers and Davina’s true motivations begin to reveal themselves. Similarly Jane’s episode reveals her to be more than a happy go lucky Australian, but a teacher with a backstory and a strong desire to ‘save’ others, which is revealed further when unhappy teenager Cassie enters the fray.

 

Listeners will find a bit of themselves and those they know in at least one (if not all) of the characters. Each episode has at least one moment which punches you in the heart, or simply makes you laugh. I’ve often heard swimmers describe swimming as a way to break down their walls put up to cope with life, and instead focus on what’s left; Wild Things is an accurate and timely portrayal of that process, perhaps it will allow the wider world to understand what swimming outdoors means to those who do it.