Late 2015 I was invited to contribute a piece of theatre to an Open Door night at Birmingham Rep. I’m part of a collection of writers who do this on a regular basis, usually writing to to a theme, In this case the theme was “Walls”.
Anything to do with walls.
My mind went blank. Walls are very solid,very obstructive, very physical. This didn’t seem to be a good starting point for a play. Then someone mentioned runners “hitting the wall”, and I remembered a friend of a friend called Wayne Soutter, who swam the English Channel, and told me that he nearly failed in the attempt, until he saw a fish beneath him, which in his confused, near hypothermic state, he mistook for a shark. This gave him such a shock that his stroke rate went up, his speed increased, his temperature rose and he made it to France.
Wayne had hit the wall, in the wet. If you’re on dry land, you might fall over, sit on the kerb, throw up. What do you do in a rough sea?
I wanted to find out more about why Wayne would put himself through such a painful, and risky, process. And then he told me about his really tough swim, between Scotland and Ireland, in 2012. How he hit the wall again. How he missed Ireland. How the weather deteriorated and the boat couldn’t stay ahead of him.
How, how… how. Why?
Over 4000 people have climbed Everest.
1000 have swum the English Channel.
Twelve have walked on the moon.
But no one had ever succeeded in doing what Wayne tried to do.
Is that why?
That’s what my play, “Hitting the Wall” tries to find out. It’s on in Buxton on the 8th, 10th and 20th of July. Come and see if you like my answers.