Review: Swimming, White Bear Theatre

Alex Bower’s Swimming kicks off a hefty run at the White Bear Theatre with mixed results

“Let’s just jump in the water”

There’s the kernel of something really interesting at the root of Alex Bower’s play Swimming. For all the talk in how far we’ve come in terms of accepting and recognising sexual fluidity and an enhanced level of conversation around LGBT+ issues, it can still be an intensely personal and difficult journey that people have to go on to discover an identity that slips out of heteronormative boundaries. 

And such it is for Dan. Long partnered with Marianne, he brusquely breaks up that relationship when he decides to act on a flirtatious chat with fellow swimmer Sam. But though he’s happy to be dating a guy in private, he can’t quite bring himself to make it public, hiding his new relationship from his best mate Ant (who has his own designs on Marianne), withdrawing from almost every aspect of his ‘before’ life.

And like I say, there’s something bold in acknowledging the complexities not only in defining one’s own sexuality but in how to negotiate the outside world with it. If it is a question of experimentation which you ultimately decide against, it is not a label that you can easily shake off, such is the unforgiving nature of society. But it is a shame that Bower’s play doesn’t fully explore these subtleties.

Rather, his narrative gets split between the characters, especially once Ant and Marianne’s connection is established, and ultimately theirs is a much less interesting coupling with little to add to the conversation about contemporary identity. The result is thus one of unharnessed potential, of a play about bisexuality that isn’t afraid to say the word. It’s always good to see a lead character so unafraid of being unlikeable though. 

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Swimming is booking at the White Lion Theatre until 21st August

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