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The Listed Theatre Company have brought their very unique production to Plymouth to engage the city’s audience with a part of their past, present and future that they may have otherwise overlooked. The show, which is preformed in and around the city’s Tinside Lido covers the history of this lido as well as others around the country. 247 spoke to Suzy Catliff, director, to ask why she felt this was a story that needed to be told.

What would say makes lidos a relevant subject to explore in this kind of performance piece?
Well, almost right across the board, the remaining lidos represent a piece of 1930s architecture, which needs preserving. They’re not really something that is talked about anymore and it’s because of that they are disappearing. The piece was created and then developed in connection with four Lidos so far in Ipswich, Peterborough, Tooting Bec in South London and Ilkey and we tried to introduce some local flavour with each performance.

Have you managed to do that with Plymouth?
Yes, we’ve spoken to a number of people about the lido and what it means to them. Especially the older generation who remember it from back in the day. We’ve carried out quite a lot of work with Age Concern asking them about their memories and experiences of the place and we’ve spoken with local history Chris Robinson who’s been able to shed some light on what the place has meant, and continues to mean, to the local community. A big part of what we seek to do with Listed Theatre is to combine art with activism and make the sites of our performances relevant to the audience.

So you’re drawing on the fact that groups have fought to make sure these places endure?
Certainly, with all the Lidos we’ve looked at it seems that people have struggled to maintain them. Tinside Lido was closed in 1992 but was reopened in 2005 after the Tinside Action Group was formed in 1998 to fight for its continued existence. In their heyday these campaigners delivered a petition with 72,000 signatures to Downing Street demanding that the lido be restored.

That’s quite an outcry of public opinion.
It certainly is and interesting when you look at other sites in Plymouth that have been allowed to fall by the wayside – such as the Palace Theatre. This type of outcry has happened in the other cities as well though.

So what do you think it is about lidos that touches people in this way?
Well they are more than just places. They always represent ways of life and ways of being. The closest links for much of your readership I think are to surfing and beach culture. People can relax and attune to their surroundings in this environment. Lidos became places to be seen and be at ease with your surroundings and yourself. They were certainly the places to be to attract the attention of the opposite sex! There’s something exciting about places that have endured for this long and still continue to be used for exactly the purpose they were created for. In that regard they’re a great deal like theatres which is where our involvement begins.

So that’s part of the message you’re delivering through the play?
I certainly hope so we’ve a cast of seven very talented actors – some who’ve come along with us and some who have joined more locally – to provide a real sense of story and place and who are present verbatim the words of people who’ve come before them. It provides a really epic feel to the story and hope your readers will enjoy it.

Listed Lido continues until 7th August at the Tinside Lido on Plymouth Hoe. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Box office.

Words: Alan Butler