So clever of local fashion label BODS.BODYNITS to disguise their fashion show as a stage play; because after watching The Swimming Instructor, what’s more memorable was those cute trunks and striking bikinis. Sex sells. For the first 15 minutes. After that, it’s overkill with needless baring of skin in a patchy storyline. And injecting short filmlets throughout the production didn’t quite filled the gaps (what’s with the feet in pool and hand sequence?).
The most redundant skin scene would be when Dave (played by Jeremy Lee) bared his ass in a ‘shower’. He could’ve kept his trunks on to ‘bathe’ and still set the stage for what was going to happen next. As a character, Dave is somewhat conservative and uptight, so it’s more likely for him, as a matter of characterization, to keep his trunks on while showering than to go nude. I recognize these types of character. I keep my swimwear on when bathing at a public pool.
Weak characterization was also what drowned this production of personality clichés. There is the hunky, beng-type straight swimming instructor who can’t decide if he likes neh-nehs (breasts) or soft men; then there’s the slutty spoilt little rich girl who wears her sexuality on her belly button; and finally there’s the self-important prissy gay guy who is very lao ji gey way (Hokkien phrase to describe people who outwardly pretend that they don’t desire someone, but inside, they are getting all wet even by just looking at that person’s shadow).
Therefore, don’t expect ISO 9000 stamped-chopped-approved acting from the cast. No wait, their acting was really good because you can tell that they were acting. This is especially obvious in the inconsistent beng accent of the title character, Guan. Played by Lim Wee Hong, Guan is one minute broken English and poor diction, then the next, speaks in perfect sentences and clear enunciation. His saving grace was his incredibly amazing physique. But his manicured tan was too golden and splendid. Most swimming instructors we see at the pool have dirty black tans with bands of white where their watches / rings had been. So, Guan’s tan could go even darker. But then again, who wants to watch their mother’s leather handbag on stage?
With the characters spelt out, the story pretty much told itself… that of one-and-a-half girls lusting after a half man. And it also tried to deal with the subject of love, and made a mess of it. But the symbolic ending was rather touching and left a bittersweet note that wraps up the jerky performance nicely. The stage set was also interesting with a bracket of water that brought the idea of a swimming pool into the small theatre. And there were some pretty good situational humor in the middle of the play that really tickled.
The Swimming Instructor didn’t really quite make a splash, more like a ripple in the ocean. So re-staging this play for the third time is about enough… unless BODS.BODYNITS has a new line of swimwear.