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Swimming With Sharks

September 24, 2012

(picture courtesy of Pangdemonium! Productions)

Event: “Swimming With Sharks” by Pangdemonium! Productions
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 20th Sept – 7th Oct 2012

Reality Bites

It might just be a coincidence, but Pangdemonium seems to have a penchant for putting up plays of which there is also a well-known big screen equivalent.

There was “The Full Monty” (2010), “Closer” (2011), and, of course, this month’s “Swimming With Sharks”, based on the 1994 film starring Kevin Spacey.

Not to also mention their next play “Rabbit Hole” in April next year, which was made into a film two years back starring Nicole Kidman.

Apart from perhaps being known as an on-stage “The Pupil” reunion of sorts because of the three identical leading cast members, one should also note that this production of “Swimming With Sharks” marks the stage debut of George Young, whom you might have seen as host on “Million Dollar Money Drop”, or as Benjamin Wong on “The Pupil”.

“Swimming With Sharks” tells of the vicious dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood show business, and Adrian Pang plays Buddy Ackerman, an utterly ruthless senior executive of major Hollywood studio Keystone Pictures, while George Young plays his overly-eager, wide-eyed new assistant fresh out of film school, whose impressions of the real world are built entirely on his love affair with the silver screen.

Comparisons with the hit TV series “Entourage” are not only inevitable in this instance, but mandatory.

At times it almost seemed like one was watching a stage version of a season of “Entourage”.

One could not help but see Adrian Pang playing Ari Gold to George Young’s Lloyd, and although the tyranny and ruthlessness are all there, the Buddy Ackerman character is perhaps written with far less redeeming qualities than the Ari Gold one.

Adrian Pang dutifully delivers the goods once again with a believable portrayal of the high-flying, power-obsessed philanderer of a movie exec, but the true revelation here is George Young – rookie in more ways than one – who carries the show remarkably with an incredibly inspired performance, showing the gradual maturity and transformation of Guy as he gets sucked into the whole Hollywood machinery, leading to the thrilling climax.

Janice Koh plays independent producer Dawn Lockard, who finds herself inextricably linked into the plot by virtue of wanting to produce a film called “The Afghani Incident” with Keystone Pictures, and also having fallen in love and being in a relationship with Guy, which complicates matters even further.

Unfortunately, Janice’s American accent was largely found wanting, which inevitably made the portrayal seem far less authentic, and while there was little else one could find fault with, it did seem like there was a strange lack of chemistry in the love affair between Dawn and Guy.

The entire play clocks in at around 3 full hours (including intermission), which makes it one of the longest plays I’ve attended, and while there were drawn out scenes which could definitely have used a bit of tightening up, the actors easily compensated for it with their strength of delivery.

You could say “Swimming With Sharks” gives one a glimpse into the perilous world of life in Tinseltown, and although there isn’t anything in the material that isn’t also covered in shows such as “Entourage”, it still remains a thoroughly engaging play, thanks in no small part to the calibre of the entire cast, which also includes Daniel Jenkins, Crispian Chan, James Shubert, Shane Mardjuki and Melissa Faith Yeo.

The twist right at the very end of the play is excellent too, and might be worth half the price of admission alone.

It wouldn’t be appropriate to divulge any details, but let’s just say that this was probably the starkest example of “Chekhov’s Gun” I’ve seen in a play yet.

All in all, a highly enjoyable offering from Pangdemonium! Productions.

They say there is no business like show business, and it’s hard to see how this staging of “Swimming With Sharks” should deserve anything less than stellar takings at the box office.

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