Never Swim Alone

BATS Theatre, Wellington

04/04/2006 - 13/04/2006

Production Details

By Daniel MacIvot
Directed by Ryan Hartigan


Never Swim Alone has played to much acclaim im multiple festivals across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Its physical, testosterone driven commentary upon male attitudes to success, survival and the comeptitive urge resonates strongly with audiences. From its initial success as a touring production during the 1991 Gulf War, to an avalanche of revivals during the current War on Terror, the play has already become a classic of the non-mainstream theatre.  

Producers                         Ryan Hartigan
                                            Eleanor Bishop

Director                            Ryan Hartigan

The Referee                      Alicia Sutton
A. Francis DeLorenzo    Aaron Cortesi
William (Bill) Wade      Nick Dunbar

Lighting                            Wendy Clease
Sound, set & costume    M. Ubu

Stage Manager                Andrew Simpson
Technical Operator        Wendy Clease
Set Construction             Simon Jones
Fight choreography/
Adviser                              Allan Hendry

Publicist                            Brianne Kerr
Publicity Design             Lynley McDonald

Theatre ,

50 mins

To be a real man

Review by Lynn Freeman 13th Apr 2006

NEVER Swim Alone is an amazing Canadian play given a few Kiwi twists and the Ryan Hartigan touch. It’s a winning combination.

This is about one-upmanship. Here the best man wins, but what constitutes the best man? Is he the toughest, the strongest, the most ruthless? Or is he the one who’s most sensitive, loving and caring? Is there room in the world for the good guy or will the bad guy always take the prize?

Daniel MacIvor’s play about what it means to be a real man in today’s world is set both as a race and as a boxing tournament, with old friends Francis and Bill locked in a bitter battle. They know each other better than they know themselves – each other’s pride, weaknesses, power, self-loathing and self-image.

The play is exhausting to watch let alone perform, demanding physical and verbal dexterity from the two male actors. Aaron Cortesi (Francis), straight out of Toi Whakaari, is a class act with stage presence to burn and finds the perfect foil in the excellent Nick Dunbar. What a team!

Alicia Sutton is The Referee who keeps the sparring men in line but is much more than that… to say more would be a crime.

This script is a goldmine for Theatre Pataphysical director Ryan Hartigan, a fearless director not afraid to push his cast to their limits. It’s a wild ride, this tragi-comedy.


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Competitive comedy makes its point

Review by John Smythe 04th Apr 2006

"Race you to the point!" is the recurring challenge of this play and, in 50-odd testosterone-tainted minutes of non-naturalistic but truth-revealing theatre, the point is certainly made.

By Canadian playwright Daniel McIvor, Never Swim Alone (1991) translates readily to New Zealand, where it has been freely set by Theatre Pataphysical director Ryan Hartigan. Dave Dobbyn rubs bon-mots with Frederick Nietzsche, there’s a nod toward the Front Lawn’s ‘how y’ going’ ritual and referring to the mountain as maunga (as in Maunganui) completes the relocation of the work into a Kiwi context.

Two boys and a girl on a beach on the last day of the school holidays is a universal image that occurs as the context for the challenge, issued by the girl. But the point, for her, is not to win. She wants to get there, sure, but on the way she wants to get to know them … Except how can she when they race ahead?

This is the scenario, the defining event, that makes the play allegorical. Not that it changes them. It simply reveals them – Frank and Bill – for what they are, even in their adult, be-suited, briefcase-toting incarnations: compulsively competitive, fear-driven boys. This is why it is seen as a metaphor for warmongering policy and practice.

As for her – Lisa – in her blue bathing suit and referee’s whistle, her high-perched umpiring from a life-saver’s lookout turns out to be ironic. Her superior placing has come at a price.

Alicia Sutton is perfect casting: a classically gorgeous bathing beauty with a strong air of maturity, wisdom, authority – and fun. She takes us for the ride, buying into their crap on our behalves, the better to get us all to the point.

As the taller man/boy, Frank (A. Francis DeLorenzo), Aaron Cortesi embodies a natural assumption of dominance, marking well the moments his pride gets pricked. And as the ‘almost imperceptibly shorter’ Bill (William Wade), Nick Dunbar neatly epitomises the small guy flaunting his small victories.

The team work required, especially between the two men, is exacting and very well executed. All three hit exactly the right comic notes.

Hartigan helms the cast with great clarity of purpose, instilling us with confidence that our attention will pay off – which it does. The liberal humour serves to amuse us and suck us in, the better to plunge home the point.

An intelligent production of an intelligent play.


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