Saturday, September 22, 2012

Braving Pangdemonium's "Swimming With Sharks"

Forget about loaded minefields at the office.

Facing hungry boss-sharks is probably what everyone should constantly look out for. For one thing, you might face a much slower, more painful demise. At best, you'll probably (d)evolve into another blood-thirsty shark.

And that was the primary premise of the movie screenplay by George Huang called "Swimming With Sharks", which is now currently brought to our local theatre scene by Pangdemonium! Productions.

Red Dot Diva has always enjoyed Pangdemonium!'s choice of plays. They are usually edgy with a dark twist, or absolutely fun productions with witty scripts like "The Full Monty", for instance.

With a title like "Swimming With Sharks" and that promotional pic of lead actor/ owner Adrian Pang looking like the aptly-named James Bond metal-mouth villain Jaws, it was inevitable that Red Dot Diva would be donning her heavy-duty neoprene suit for a dive into their preview night on Thursday.

And what a swim that was!

It was a riveting 2.5 hours about the ugly side of Hollywood and the tenuous, complex relationships between bully and victim; boss and subordinate; younger lover and "Mrs Robinson". All in the name of a synchronized swimming sequence called the power play.

George Young, who was making his first foray into professional theatre, did a very creditable job as Guy the rookie. In the first half of the play, George played Guy as sweetly naive as he was annoying. The character sure reminded Red Dot Diva of some bright-eyed newbies in her career who thought they could just about do anything without paying a price. That changed soon enough in the second half of the play though. And the pivotal scenes between Guy (George) and Buddy Ackerman (Adrian Pang) were simply nail-biting. And ear-ringing. Ahhh!

Talking about Buddy, the bullying egoistical boss was aptly brought to life by Adrian Pang, who is always deliciously watchable when he's acting (or is it being?) bad. His timing and delivery of lines were spot on, so much so that the tongue-lashing and bitter after-taste of cynicism lingered even after the play has ended.

Janice Koh, who is a familiar face on the local media scene (as well as being a NMP!), was intriguing as ambitious producer Dawn. As seductive as she was a go-getter, it was difficult to know what Dawn was really up to. Sounds like some people you know at the office?

What worked superbly during the production was the use of recognizable movie footage in between key scene changes. Instead of being jarring, they actually helped set the mood and intentions without too much exposition, Red Dot Diva thought.

The 3D set designed by Ian Bailie looked stylish and was mostly static, consisting mainly of the Ackerman production office with a staircase leading up to a of Buddy's room. Unfortunately, this was Red Dot Diva's main bugbear about the play.

For those sitting on ground level of the Drama Centre auditorium, the 'glass' railing of the second floor office blocked most of the facial views when the actors were seated. Which was a pity. The audience at the circle seats probably got a better view whenever the acting was carried out at Buddy's own office.

But that was a small gripe compared to the utterly enjoyable stage performance by the cast - which also included Daniel Jenkins, Shane Mardjuki, James Shubert, Crispian Chan and Melody Faith Yeo.

Together with the witty script (ever so nicely tweaked with more current movie references) and fine stage direction by Tracie Pang, the production was so fast-paced that it did not feel as if 2.5 hours had just gone by that night!

So, that was what swimming with sharks felt like!

Red Dot Diva chomps off a Very Bloody Red Dot on Pangdemonium!'s production of "Swimming With Sharks".

Still relevant in today's context, the play is vicious with an ample number of F-bombs, contains a fair amount of violence, is sarcastic but ultimately.... very invigorating. You'd feel as ravenous as a great white shark for days.

Don't Miss It!


The production run of "Swimming With Sharks" is running from now till 7 October 2012 at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library.

Go buy the tickets from SISTIC now!

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