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Swimming With Sharks

September 25, 2012

Event: Swimming With Sharks by Pangdemonium! Productions
Run: 20 Sep to 7 Oct 2012
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Written by: George Huang (adapted for the stage by Michael Lesslie)
Directed by: Tracie Pang
Main cast: Adrian Pang, Janice Koh, George Young

Showbiz is a mean business, and very much the context of this play, not to mention manipulative bosses and scheming moguls. A fairly pacey script and on-the-ball dialogue, the script was smart and though quite wordy, it didn’t feel like the close-to-three-hours that it ran; length seemed just ok.

A fairly realistic piece in the way it was done, I believe the actors had a big part to play. With a cast inclusive Adrian Pang (as Buddy) and Janice Koh (as Dawn), you can’t really go wrong. Also, George Young’s first attempt at stage theatre was remarkable as the eager-to-please, gullible Guy, personal assistant to Buddy. The play focuses mainly on the two male leads and their abusive relationship as Buddy constantly bullies Guy, taking advantage of him. Though part of the main cast, Janice wasn’t featured as much, though her character is kind of the provider of conflict with her love affair with Guy and the script to be produced in contention. not to mention her past crossings with Buddy.

There was a slow and steady buildup to the climax, which was when Guy became fully distraught, that he seeks to torture Buddy. You would see Guy slowly changing, from the ‘innocent’ and idealistic young man who first joins the company, to becoming more shark-like in a sense, which you can tell from the change in dressing, style, disposition and how he learns to manipulate Dawn to ‘convince’ her. It all starts with a lie and he was in constant conflict with himself.
However, Guy’s inexperience and naivety eventually makes him out more like a sucker fish to the big shark, as Buddy twists Guy round his finger, even when he was being tortured by Guy. If Guy were more wise, he would not have taken Buddy at his word for everything; he should have been more inquisitive to find out more about Buddy (he would have identified the cock and bull story about the wife then). As Buddy said, Guy misses out the details and thus gets played into his hands. I pity Guy who unwittingly gets manipulated and really, he doesn’t really have the right character and instincts to suit the shark-eat-shark world. Eventually, Buddy ends up getting an even stronger hold on Guy. Maybe as it was said, it might be best not to work in what you love, because the realities surrounding it would swallow you and turn it to just work, or worse.

I felt the torture scene was actually a nice turn of events after the earlier scenes, being somehow expected, yet unexpected (hope this makes sense!). Maybe it was because for a change, Guy took control of the situation. What was funny were the torture methods, e.g. paper cuts (seriously?). And as with most Pangdemonium! productions, the sets were again impressive, simulating a real office, but also tripling as a bar and living room with the loft and ground set. The use of multimedia screenings complemented the experience as a backdrop and review of films, suiting the themes of the moment. And there were real guns with blanks!

Personally, I found Swimming With Sharks an engaging piece driven by a relatively strong cast, even though there was quite a lot of dialogue to follow. Watchable for the peep into the dark side of showbiz, which though it creates dreams for people, is not exactly built on the most comfortable bed of ideals and goodwill.

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