Writer: Alex Bower
Director: Kayla Feldman
Alex Bower’s one-act play Swimming made its first appearance at the White Bear Theatre in 2019 and now, after our enforced break, the producers have judged that it’s safe for us to go back in the water, socially distanced of course.
Dan (George Jones) is in a seemingly stable relationship with Marianne (Rose Dickson), but his eye is caught by Sam (Dominic Rawson), a student and amateur swimming instructor, while he is lounging at the local lido. Soon, the boys are practicing their strokes together, both in the pool and in the privacy of Sam’s flat, and Dan abruptly dumps Marianne over the telephone. Meanwhile, Dan’s best mate Ant (Andy Sellers), a bed maker who would like to lie in one of them with Marianne, reminds Dan of the joys of laddish sexist banter and stag nights in Ibiza.
Director Kayla Feldman’s in-the-round production, performed on a bare stage, wavers between light comedy and anguished drama. In summary, Dan wants Sam (or maybe Marianne or maybe both), Sam just wants to know, Marianne wants to heal her wounded pride and Ant wants Dan back in the hetero fold but out of the way so that he can move in on Marianne. The characters congregate to discuss Dan’s bisexuality coyly, attempting to sort out the mess that it has made of their tranquil, ordinary lives.
In looking at things from four different perspectives Bowers seems to be taking on too much to cram into a mere 70 minutes, leading to all the characters feeling underwritten. A quartet of capable young actors struggles to flesh them out and to make the chemistry between them believable. This is a particular problem in the case of Dan, the central figure. He is unable to open out to others, or probably to himself and the writer can find no way to reveal his inner emotions to the audience. As a result, we neither understand him nor empathise with him.
Swimming skims over the surface of a large pool of complex human problems without diving down to find their heart. The play is amiable enough, but it never really moves far from the shallow end.
Runs until 21 August 2021