When Celya AB left Paris to live in Birmingham (apparently ‘on purpose’) at 19 she was prepared for a culture shock. Because Anglo-French relations can be tricky, with Brits often believing the French to be arrogant and standoffish. Eight years later the comedian is able to offer her observations as someone who’s now integrated in British culture but still has the insight of an outsider. It’s a good show that lacks a little in the delivery. If anything, AB’s quiet, low-key musings could do with a bit of Gallic arrogance to give the material some oomph.
Swimming may ostensibly be a show about learning to swim in your 20s after falling for an instructor but it’s a classic fish out of water story. It’s also about working in an office with Brexiteers, trying to gain settled status in a country that often feels hostile to outsiders and making friends in a country where people are intent on mispronouncing your name. The comic also picks apart the classic ‘pick me’ girl from those late 90s/early 00 prom romcoms. The films AB watched with the subtitles on to help her learn English. You know the ones, with the stunningly attractive girls who hide their beauty simply with a pair of glasses. It’s a trope laden with misogyny that the stand-up thinks about a lot. Especially when she underwent her own version of a movie transformation by losing a considerable amount of weight.
There’s a lot to laugh at during the hour although the show lacks structure and some of the one-lines are delivered so quietly they are barely audible. It cannot be easy delivering jokes in your second language, at the most famous comedy festival in the world and sometimes AB seems nervous. But there’s a lot to like, and when it comes to comedy, she is definitely swimming, not sinking.