Review: Comedy thriller starts slow but ends strong

Melissa Law
Going Out – By Night

Fame and fortune are at the root of all evil and no one knows this better than the people in Hollywood.

Exploring that theme, "Swimming With Sharks" gives us a glimpse of behind-the-scenes of the movie-making industry, including the betrayals that are a way of life.

A stage remake starring Adrian Pang, George Young and Janice Koh, stage group Pangdemonium's take on the 1994 movie is a razor-sharp satire of the industry with a modern twist.

Pang plays a ruthless boss and movie mogul, Buddy Ackerman, who hires a new intern, Guy, played by Young. Koh plays Dawn Lockhart, an independent producer and Guy's love interest.

For a play that is equal parts thriller and comedy, "Sharks" starts out a little slow.

Guy begins as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed intern — an aspiring film-maker driven by his pure love for films.

While working at Buddy's production company, he meets Dawn and falls in love with her.

As the months go by, the young and honest man is slowly worn down by Buddy's abrasive and abusive management style, corrupted by the cut-throat nature of the industry.

Eventually, Guy is forced to choose between his love for Dawn and his career. He loses everything and is driven to desperation.

Up to this point in the story, the lines were humorous and the acting was engaging, but the verbosity of the play tested the audience's patience, and even I was fidgeting in my seat.

When it finally got to the climax however, the audience was dead silent and completely absorbed in the plot, hanging onto the actors' every word.

I have to admit that I was initially lukewarm to Young's performance. He makes his stage debut with "Sharks" but his bad posture in the beginning of the play bothered me.

However, he executed the climax flawlessly, and it was here that Young's performance dazzled the audience. Within minutes, I had changed my mind and I was impressed.

The development and growth of Guy's character was evident in Young's performance. No longer the pushover he once was, Guy began to show more confidence from the middle of the play.

Pang performed well throughout the play. His ability to inject comedy in the tense climax without detracting from its intensity successfully added another layer to Buddy's character.

He managed to convey the vulnerable and human side of Buddy, drawing the audience in. In fact, he was so convincing that we started to empathise with the underhanded producer and his plight.

When the twist in the story was revealed (no spoilers here, lest we ruin the experience for you), the audience gasped in disbelief and audible 'oh's' echoed from the stands.

Besides the acting, I also liked how the writers included references to "Fifty Shades of Grey" and Kristen Stewart's breakup with Robert Pattinson in a bid to keep the play modern and relevant.

Another impressive piece of detail was the use of blank shots during the play.

While most of us were already aware that dummy shots would be fired, we were so engaged that we were completely caught off guard when they were actually fired.

Screams were heard and we were jerked out of reality and into the play, drawing out the gravity of the climax and enhancing the experience.

Overall, theatre-goers will be rewarded for their initial patience if they see this play.

See the trailer here.

Catch "Swimming With Sharks" from now till 7 October 2012 at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets are available from SISTIC.