The Swimming Club: Articles, reviews, photos etc
John Waters is happy to take the plunge in The Swimming Club. By Harbant Gill. Herald Sun. February 02, 2010

DROWNING in nostalgia is not a fate ever likely to inflict actor and musician John Waters. He's far too inventive for that.

While Waters has dived into Hannie Rayson's reminiscence-driven The Swimming Club, his own life is full of ventures that leave no room for longings for the past.

In the latest work by the award-winning playwright who gave us Hotel Sorrento and Life After George, a group of middle-class, middle-aged, mid-career baby boomers reunite at a Greek island playground of their youth. The Swimming Club, as the group called themselves 25 years ago, had vowed to meet every year or two for the rest of their lives, but life kept them apart until now. What ensues is one surprise after another as the players try to rekindle their youth.

Waters plays public relations consultant Dave Flinders who travels to the reunion with his wife Kate (Angela Punch McGregor) and their feisty private-schooled daughter who holds up a mirror to their younger years.

The stalwart of theatre, film and television, however, has no desire to relive his own youth. Waters willingly attended the 40-year reunion of the cast of Hair in Sydney late last year, only to observe that the bonds forged in his late teens "had never really gone".

"But if I had been longing for my youth I would have been miserable," he says. "What was positive and reaffirming about it was that we retain all of the same vigour and enthusiasm that we had then. I don't think you can pretend that you look forward to getting old, but you have to be realistic about what your maturity brings you and there are a great deal of positives."

Among the pluses he cites are the varied roles he's offered - the characters are richer in experience and more interesting to play.

Waters' decades in the entertainment industry have also earned him the rock-solid confidence to forge his own way rather than be swayed by the whims of others. His biggest gift has been the capacity to live beyond any preconceptions of age.

"I don't think of myself in terms of an age and I think that's the way to go," he says. "I think people should become more pro-active and more vital the older they get... You should push yourself to the very limits."

The 61-year-old guitarist and singer will soon release his first solo album, Cloudland, featuring his compositions and his band with whom he toured his John Lennon show Looking Through a Glass Onion.

The father of two grown-up children from his first marriage, he now has a seven-year-old and three-year-old twins who help keep him revved up.

"Whenever you have children, immediately you are looking straight ahead 20 years into the future... I don't have any complaints about my career or my life."

The Swimming Club, MTC Theatres, Southbank, until March 14. Tickets: $30-$83.15. Bookings, ph: 8688 0900 or
Actor John Waters stars in a new MTC play The Swimming Club. Picture: Ben Swinnerton Source: HWT Image Library
The Swimming Club.  By Hannie Rayson
Melbourne Theatre Company & Black Swan Theatre Sumner Theatre. Ends March 14.
Reviewer Martin Ball. The Age. February 6, 2010.

MELBOURNE Theatre Company's publicity material for Hannie Rayson's new play The Swimming Club quotes a review of an earlier play, describing her as ''a playwright in full command of her powers''. Unfortunately, this is not the case with her new work, in which the writing lacks rhythm, the dialogue is uneven, and the characters fail to make the audience really care what happens to them. Ultimately, the lasting image is not swimming so much as floundering to construct a meaningful play.

On the face of it, Rayson has a good premise. A group of six 50-year-olds, each facing their own form of mid-life crisis, decide to return to an idealised memory of their shared time on the Greek island of Lesbos some 25 years earlier. Relationships cut across each other, friendships are renewed and broken, and each emerges perhaps a little wiser.

This is good plot material, but is compromised from too many sides. Rayson overloads the play with too many themes, without adequate development. In addition to the Mid-life Crisis, there is cancer; the GFC and superannuation worries; homosexuality; private school fees; teenage drug use; etc. Coupled with the fact that scenes are so short the characters seem to be pushing each other off stage, these ideas come across as superficial and gratuitous.

The dialogue, too, struggles to connect. While there are certainly some very good lines and speeches, there is also much that is lame, particularly Laura and Nikos' reunion (''I've never loved anyone else'' etc). And consider the teenage daughter Sappho, who wants to be called Bat, has a Muslim boyfriend, overdoses on ecstasy, and falls in love with her mother's lover. This isn't social satire, it's just Soap Opera 101.

The play's best moments come in the second half as it develops tension between the rival characters Dave and Jasper, but the plot devices are clunky and cliched.

The cast do their best with what they have, and it's a delight to see John Waters as the cuckolded Dave, still lean, hungry and attractive. Igor Sas is the most effective at delineating his character Jasper across the changing time periods.

Director Kate Cherry is good on the little things, but is unable to construct a grand vision for this play, which never quite knows what tone to adopt or which metaphor to pursue.
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.
Many thanks to the Black Swan State Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company for the permission to use production and rehearsal images.  Photo credits: Production images: Jeff Busby. Rehearsal images: Pam Klee Mann