ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

02/11/2017 - 15/11/2017

Production Details

How far would you go to get what you want? 

Award-winning playwright, Lucas Hnath, brings you an edge-of-your-seat drama about a family torn apart by ambition, drugs and the taste of superstardom.

Ray is a lean, mean swimming machine. But when performance-enhancing drugs are discovered in the locker room, he is implicated in a scandal that could destroy his dreams and tear his family apart.

“A taut, incisive drama about a swimmer with high Olympic hopes and a waterlogged ethical compass.” – The New York Times

Hailed as one of the brightest new voices of his generation, Lucas Hnath dissects the American Dream with a precision and passion not seen since David Mamet. Here, the desperate race for success is won by fractions of a second, and the clock is counting. Through an ever-spiralling series of reversals, betrayals, compromises and threats, tensions escalate to an explosive climax and blood-red confrontation with the truth.

Thrilling, dark and dangerous, Red Speedo transforms one man’s near-naked ambition into a parable for a modern age obsessed with sex, sport and celebrity, where virtue has no value and the only crime is getting caught.

Experience the cutting edge of contemporary theatre. Dive in! Hold your breath!

ASB Waterfront Theatre
2 – 15 November 2017
Tue & Wed, 7pm | Thur-Sat, 8pm
Sat 11 Nov, 2pm | Sun 12 Nov, 4pm
Preview/Matinee  $30 – $57
Premiere  $30 – $67
Standard  $30 – $72

Ray:  Ryan Carter 
Lydia:  Chelsie Preston Crayford 
Peter:  Wesley Dowdell 
Coach:  Scott Wills

Set and Costume Design:  John Parker
Lighting Design:  Rachel Marlow
Sound Design:  Eden Mulholland
Video Design:  Simon Barker  

Theatre ,

Togs, Togs, Drama

Review by Rachael Longshaw-Park 08th Nov 2017

Red Speedo is Benjamin Henson’s mainbill directorial debut with Auckland Theatre Company after a series of successful endeavours across New Zealand. Henson as made a name for himself as a director with shows such as AUSA’s As You Like It, Last Tapes Company’s Valerie, and his most recent Auckland work The Effect as part of Q Theatre’s Matchbox season.

Red Speedo takes us into the life of Ray (Ryan Carter), a competitive swimmer by trade (and not much else), as he is gearing up to swim for the Olympic qualifying rounds after smashing through national records. Circling Ray are three more characters: his brother Peter (Wesley Dowdell), who also serves as his lawyer and representative; his longstanding coach (Scott Wills); and his ex-girlfriend/ex-sport’s therapist Lydia (Chelsie Preston Crayford). Playwright Lucas Hnath’s characters are undeniably human; if you find yourself looking for the hero of this story, you’ll be disappointed. As in life, Hnath’s complex characters navigate the morality (or lack thereof) of the play, demonstrating how easily the best intention can lead to hellish consequences. [More


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Water runs Red on fast lane to top

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 08th Nov 2017

The pressure-cooker environment of professional sport provides the platform for a taut, timely and provocative meditation on an economic system which promises wildly abundant rewards which are only ever delivered to a chosen few.

When a rising swimming star uses banned substances to fuel his Olympic dream a ruthless battle erupts within a three-faced combat zone inhabited by the swimmer’s manager, sports therapist and coach.

American playwright Lucas Hnath places the art of the deal at the heart of the drama with four strongly drawn characters advancing their own interests through brutal power-plays, manipulative bargaining and hard-nosed negotiations. [More


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A gripping psychological drama for our times

Review by Genevieve McClean 03rd Nov 2017

When I picture Olympian swimmers, I think of the drive and the linear force of nature that is those bodies powering through the water.  The line of round capped heads, the camera pulling focus on the goggled profiles just before the dive, the extraordinary speed of the length compared to any other timing of laps in an Olympic sized pool, and usually framed in a 3 by 4 screen, 16:9, if you’re under 35. 

Benjamin Henson’s direction of Red Speedo gives us very clearly a new perspective on that Olympian poolside dynamic.  While the language of Hnath’s play is equally driven and relentless, the drama of his play is a perspective on power that is volatile and human. It plays off the very different minds of its four characters like the juddering impact of powered kinetic energy driving mass into mass looking to increase its momentum.

The cadence and structure of a Mamet play resonates through Hnath’s fast language and, as with Mamet, the actors are pushed by it to that place where holding character and actor and audience in the space becomes a precarious choreography of psychology.  It is combative but the intent must overlap the spoken word.  The staging is eloquently planned. In the second half of the play there is a scene in which the physicality becomes so unexpectedly lyrical it hits notes of the epic – and it’s in this that I mostly recognise the directorial flourish of Henson.

From the outset, Wesley Dowdell brings a spitfire monologue describing the swimmer to set the pace. There is no interval, by the way.  Warnings include language but the dynamic of the action is likely to linger longer than a swear word in the content.  The echoes of relationship dynamics, politics and structural power will return in the wake of the very real contemporary characters in this show.  It is very fresh writing which makes the discourse of a play feel as though it is a bit about everyone in the auditorium, or sits in part in the realm of their received experiences.

The set, John Parker’s design, makes a magnificent departure into the world of Olympian power, referencing the power podium in red and providing a point of departure for connotations that sit with the theories around Trumpian politics at the heart of all contemporary thinkers’ concepts of power.  This is storytelling that deserves not to be spoiled.  So if you haven’t googled a review yet that gives you a total breakdown of the play, don’t!  Go see it instead.  

Ryan Carter’s characterization of Ray the Olympian swimmer is a carefully balanced series of exceptions to the audience’s expectation, and possibly Ray’s own.  Here Ray begins the show as the archetypal golem-like man-made man, sitting mute between his coach and his rep. 

When we do hear from him – his choices, his methodology, what drives him – I am inclined to say there is a rigidity in his thinking process. But psychologists in the audience will find Ray suitably complex. It’s just as plausible that, in keeping with the hidden depths of anyone following that long and blinkered Olympian pathway, this could equally be to do with the corruption of his ambitions. His moral code appears to have become derailed by his own goal-oriented intent to fulfil his reformed, if desperate idealism. But that depends where the goals are and on who sets them.

Chelsea Preston-Crayford, Wesley Dowdell and Scott Wills all inhabit their respective characters impressively. Preston-Crayford effortlessly plays the emotive flux, Wills evokes the Coach with a lineage of character expertly banked in the working-class aspiration of East Coast American machismo while, as I mentioned, Dowdell plays his character out with a propulsion that drives the interactive elements of the story.  Which I am not going to detail. 

I will mention, however, Rachel Marlow’s lighting design in all its facets, and say emphatically how much I like it. 

This play is a gripping psychological drama for our times.  Go and see Red Speedo.  It should remain on your mind long after you have discussed it with your friends and companions.  


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