Sinking feeling about a midlife crisis. By Alison Croggon. The Australian. February 08, 2010
The Swimming Club. Sumner Theatre, Melbourne. February 4.
THE Swimming Club, Hannie Rayson's new play, takes the classic trope of middle-aged friends reuniting to relive their youth.
Six people who met on a Greek island in their 20s gather again on Lesbos, giving them plenty of opportunity to quote Sappho and Homer, or at least to mention the Iliad.
The charm of this kind of play, in the tradition of theatre holding a mirror up to nature, is supposedly that, as an audience member, I see my personal situation amplified on stage.
About halfway through the first act, I realised I was in the target age-group. I had been thinking that it was about people rather older than I am, an impression reinforced by the casting.
For instance John Waters, who plays PR flack Dave Flinders, is, whatever the text says, at least a decade past 50.
Even so, the text plays bingo with every sociological cliche that ever peppered an opinion page, including a bonus goth rebel teen called Sappho (Megan Holloway).
As the play's central character Kate Morton (Angela Punch McGregor) exclaims several times, "We are so bourgeois!"
This "we" has hefty mortgages, and teenage children in private schools who have ponies and ballet lessons.
The characters are, I suppose, having midlife crises. Certainly, they have the global financial crisis.
Most of all, they long for the sunny, innocent days when they were young and free and wild and splashing about with their friends in the Aegean, before carelessly motorcycling over to Troy (or maybe swimming to Turkey). Did I mention they were young and free?
The Swimming Club presents a fantasy vision of the post-boomer generation and will no doubt do for some of us what David Williamson did for the generation before.
Kate Cherry's production does the job, if at times a little clumsily, on an elegant, sand-floored set that acts as a canvas for some very beautiful lighting effects.
The play's worst flaw is a complete lack of structure, which means panic sets in through the second act.
Scene follows scene in a way that could conceivably go on indefinitely, with new plot points turning up every 15 minutes.
As it is, it burbles on for almost three hours, rather like a myopic, well-meaning uncle looking for the exit door, and is saved only by recourse to deus ex machina.
One for the Rayson fans.
Melbourne Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company. Sumner Theatre, Melbourne. Until March 14. Playhouse Theatre, Perth, March 27-April 18. Tickets: $83. Bookings: (03) 8688 0888.