Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Theatre Review: Never Swim Alone

Scoop Review: Never Swim Alone


Aaron Cortesi (Frank) and Nick Dunbar (Bill)

Never Swim Alone
By Daniel MacIver in association with da da kamera [Toronto]
Theatre Pataphysical
Director: Ryan Hartigan
Cast: Aaaron Cortesi, Nick Dunbar, Alicia Sutton
April 4 - 13 (No show Sunday/Monday)
7pm (60 Minutes)


A circle of sand on the stage invoke a school-holiday beach and also serve as a kind of symbolic sumo-wrestling ring. Two men in suits play out vignettes of male interaction, each one a new round in a tournament of masculinity. The woman in the raised seat with the bathing suit and the whistle is a referee something like the opposite of a lifeguard.

The play is Canadian and while it has been adapted to a New Zealand setting the male culture and competition depicted appears to be closely shared. In fact, as the two men greeted each other with a series of conversational and social cliches I was reminded of "How You Doing?", the song by New Zealand's The Front Lawn, both in terms of the content and the use of rhythmic, repeated phrases - something which is a feature of the play.

This is thrown together with narration, naturalism and abstraction, with scenes and characters that are both individual and emblematic. All performed with at a sustained high level of energy by the cast - I noticed sweat on Cortesi's forehead well before the end - as man was pitted against man, the one-upmanship based on everything from the suit "uniform", to personal connections, to sons and fathers, to, yes, penis size.

It seems like each of these have been covered before elsewhere, but put together they make a thorough, telling and increasingly worrisome compilation under the heading "What it is about guys".

The winner of each round takes a few moment to chat with the audience about his history or personality - this, and the fact the interaction in each round also represent moments from their life, draws us into their world.

I did however begin to wonder if this was heading anywhere - a litany of incisiveness on various masculine behaviours wasn't quite satisfying. It's hard to fault the performances or the text here - perhaps there was an evenness of rhythm in the relentless stage action. However - we were definitely going somewhere, and it arrived rather suddenly in the last minutes.

The play was woven through with references to the beach holiday and girl saying, "Race you to the point!"

If it seemed like we were a while getting to that point, it had a cutting edge when it came. The structure of the tournament collapses as the dog eat dog competition overtakes the rules. The cryptic threats scattered through the play come to a head and we discover the tragic consequences of that race to the point at the beginning of the two men's adulthood.

The masculine culture surveyed through the production - the same that is the source of so many jokes both in this show and elsewhere - is shown as an arms race, a head-to-head competition to determine who is 'the best man'. Violence is always close and the danger is great for everyone concerned.

It was disturbing. And it didn't help that some of those repeated phrases stuck in my head like a familiar song, replay all the tragedy and pathos they are woven with in the climax of the play.

***********

Never Swim Alone Press release

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

27-29 Sept: Social Enterprise World Forum Live Blog

1600+ delegates from more than 45 countries have came together to share wisdom, build networks and discuss how to create a more sustainable future using social enterprise as a vehicle. Attending the Forum were social enterprise practitioners, social entrepreneurs, policy makers, community leaders, investors, activists, academics and more from across the globe... More>>

HiveMind Report: A Universal Basic Income For Aotearoa NZ

Results from this HiveMind suggests that an overwhelming majority of Kiwis believe that due to changing circumstances and inefficiencies in the current system, we need a better system to take care of welfare of struggling members in our society. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Hivemind: Medical Cannabis - Co-Creating A Policy For Aotearoa

Welcome to the fourth and final HiveMind for Scoop’s Opening the Election campaign for 2017. This HiveMind explores the question: what would a fair, humane and safe Medical Cannabis policy look like for Aotearoa, NZ in 2018? More>>

ALSO:

Lyndon Hood: Notes On National’s Election Campaign, In Poem Form

Nationyl’s bitumen-ing / As they du du / Seed groweth / River floweth / Then ‘dozer drives thru / Highway ensu. More>>