Never Swim Alone
“If you let it, compassion will kill desire. Especially the desire to be first. And being first, my friends, is the point.”
A mysterious young girl leads businessmen Frank and Bill in a battle of words to determine who is the better man, each round presenting a different challenge and asking a new question. What begins as a playful competition reminiscent of the summers they spent together as kids ends up unearthing a tragic secret, forcing them to face their pasts or swim for their lives. Never Swim Alone has been hailed as a landmark of Canadian theatre.
NEVER SWIM ALONE
by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Luc Tellier
Stage Managed by Nyssa Beairsto
Production Assistance by Gavin Dyer
Sound & Music Designed by Dave Clarke
Produced by Wayne Paquette
Photography and Promotion Design by dbphotographics.ca
is proud to present
Never Swim Alone
at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival
REVIEWS for Never Swim Alone
“…a perfectly self-contained and unabashedly artificial work… [MacIvor] is a writer with an angular sense of humour and an uncommon knack for probing basic elements and truths of human behaviour.”
Vit Wagner, Toronto Star
“Ingenious, whimsical, a lyrical lunacy in the writing, This Is A Play is a theatre experience comedy you might associate with Tom Stoppard.“
Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail
“A world full of poetry and ceremony and mystery, where questions can be asked if not answered, Never Swim Alone is one of Daniel MacIvor’s most enduring plays.”
Carol Bolt, playwright
Edmonton Fringe Reviews:
Never Swim Alone
The Edmonton Journal
Two smiling men in identical suits with matching briefcases thread their way through the audience. They stop to shake hands here and there and introduce themselves, in that way confident business guys have.
That’s the opening gambit of Daniel MacIvor’s 1991 Never Swim Alone, his gimlet-eyed, brilliantly stylized look at male one-upmanship. The play is a contest, and the mysterious girl on the lifeguard tower is the referee: 13 rounds, with names like Who Falls Down The Best?, or Friendly Advice parts one and two, or Power Lunch, in which every cliché of male conversational currency — “so, how’s business?” —is barbed and poison-tipped.
They can’t help competing, about everything from who’s taller to who loves horses more. The ante keeps getting upped. The contest get dirtier, the put-downs more strident, the revelations uglier. It’s a cunning, tightly wound, spring-loaded little play. And not only does it escalate, in a way that seems unstoppable, it also doubles back on itself, closer and closer to a terrible shared boyhood secret.
Luc Tellier’s Blarney production crackles as it launches two compelling and well-matched actors, Oscar Derkx and Ben Stevens, into the high-speed cross-hatching. In their interlocking performances, timed with malign comic precision, their speech overlaps, loops, repeats. The effect is an ungodly kind of incantation. Both are excellent.
And so is Sarah Feutl as the girl, so wholesome and fresh, as she conjures the last day of summer at the beach, with two cute boys, when all was golden and benign and full of promise.
St. Albert Gazette
by Michelle Ferguson
Frank and Bill are the best of friends. They’re practically brothers.
As the two leave their teenage years behind, a childhood secret shapes their masculinity and locks them into constant rivalry.
Never Swim Alone explores the trope of the perfect man, the perfect marriage, the perfect life through a masterfully written text by acclaimed playwright Daniel MacIvor.
Simple, yet complex, the play places the troubled men in a highly rigid and structured contest arbitrated by a mysterious lifeguard (Sarah Feutl).
Actors Ben Stevens and Oscar Derkx give poignant performances – their comedic sparring interspersed with dark truths (about the other) and flashing teeth, as each attempts to win the audience over and prove that he is the better man.
Never Swim Alone is one of the Fringe’s meatier plays – not shying away from the darker side of humanity, but still managing to make you grin from ear to ear.
Director Luc Tellier is a former St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus who has been able to carve out a triple-threat career in the city as an actor-singer-dancer and now, with Never Swim Alone, he’s adding director to his resume.
But who’s keeping score?
Guaranteed Hit Shows at the 2016 Edmonton Fringe
Posted by Matthew Stepanic
Never Swim Alone
Strongly performed by local actors, “Never Swim Alone” follows two men in an abstract competition about who is the better man. Refereed by the pair’s shared love interest from long ago, the competitions’ stakes are continuously raised throughout the show. This dark comedy explores masculinity and social expectations in surprising and tense ways, leaving viewers on the edges of their seats as it unearths the men’s tragic secrets.
Venue 41: Rutherford School (8620-91 St.)
By Ryan Bromsgrove
A pissing contest between two boyhood friends refereed by a woman in a bathing suit, Never Swim Alone prompts questions of the potential of seemingly pointless competition for tearing things apart, slowly building up themes of anger and jealousy as the men rage. This surrealist presentation may or may not do it for you, but the performance of the two men, at times perfectly in sync, at others, viciously at-odds, is a fantastic experience. As the performance progress, the characters evolve from being near identical to tragically distinct. If you’re looking for a show with a little bite, Never Swim Alone is a decent choice.
Meet the Company
Oscar Derkx – William (BILL) Wade
Oscar graduated from the University of Alberta with a BFA in Acting. Previous acting credits include: A Christmas Carol, Encounters (Citadel Theatre); The Hothouse Prince (Teatro La Quindicina); The Antyssey, Under Cover (Concrete Theatre); Wish You Were Here (Plain Jane Theatre); Criminal Genius, Featuring Loretta (Punctuate Theatre); Lobster Alice (Atlas Theatre); Macbeth (Theatre Prospero); The Violet Hour, Bloody Poetry, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Blood Wedding, Love’s Labour’s Lost (Studio Theatre).
Sarah Feutl – Referee
Sarah is a graduate of the Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting program at the University of Alberta. Favourite credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Kaufman Kabaret (Studio Theatre) and Beware, Beware (Duckrabbit Theatre). She spent two years in the Citadel Theatre Young Company, where she performed in Escape From Happiness and Cloud Nine. Sarah has spent the past four summers as a supervisor at Artstrek, a summer theatre school for teens. Also this Fringe, you can catch her in The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song with Impossible Mongoose Productions.
Ben Stevens – A Francis (FRANK) Delorenzo
Born and based in Edmonton, Ben was most recently seen in Gordon (Theatre Network) and For the Love of Cynthia (Teatro La Quindicina). Other credits include Much Ado About Nothing, The Falstaff Project, Kill Shakespeare (Thou Art Here), Blackpool and Parrish (Acme), Sartre’s Shorts (Surreal Soreal), Sweden as a part of the National Elevator Project (Theatre Yes), Snout, Dead Centre of Town (Catch the Keys), Red Light Winter, Machinal and Equus (University of Alberta). As a performer and playwright, Ben is an active creator of new works, including Emily Etterson’s Economical Eco-friendly Water Service (For Charity!) (Two Little Theatre), The Van (Found Festival), Brake, Home Video (Heartmeat), Herbert and If I Had a Horse (Ben, Dave, Steve). Ben is not a strong swimmer.
Luc Tellier – Director
Luc is so excited to be back in this festival of lunatics, lovers, and poets. He has previously assistant directed Heathers: The Musical (Citadel Young Company) BIG SHOT (Surreal SoReal/Ghost River Theatre), and has worked as an instructor, adjudicator, supervisor, and guest artist in various capacities at Artstrek, Horizon Stage, Spark!, and in schools across the province. As an actor, Luc has worked with many companies including the Citadel Theatre, Teatro la Quindicina, the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Edmonton Opera, Workshop West, Catalyst Theatre, and Concrete Theatre. He is an alumnus of the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Training Program (Acting), MacEwan University (Theatre Arts), and The Broadway Theatre Project, and a recipient of the Timothy Ryan Memorial Award and the St. Albert Mayor’s Award for Emerging Artist. Endless gratitude to this stellar cast and crew, to his beautiful family, and to Wayne for letting him jump in.
Nyssa Beairsto – Stage Manager
Nyssa is delighted to aid in the creation Never Swim Alone for Fringe 2016. She is about to enter her fourth and final year of the U of A stage management program. Some of her most recent stage-managing opportunities include: Midsummer Night’s Dream and Oedipus (University of Alberta), Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It and Coriolanus (Freewill Shakespeare Festival) Frost Flowers/Arctic Death Machine (University of Alberta), Betrayal (University of Alberta) Enid and the Deathwish for Fringe Festival 2014 (Moplip Theatre), and Never, Never for Found Festival (Promise Productions). Nyssa is very proud of the work that has been achieved with such an incredible team. Thank you all for your wonderful support!
Gavin Dyer – Production Assistant
Gavin is new artist in Edmonton, and is really excited to be partaking in his first fringe production. You may have seen Gavin most recently in Everyone We Know Will Be there (Tiny bear Jaws theatre company), Rent (Scona theatre co), The Land Of Knees(Scona theatre co), Rocky Horror(two one way tickets to Broadway), Book Of Timothy(Short Film), The Addams family (Scona theatre co).He would like to thank Wayne, And Luc for taking him onboard this production of a fantastic script.
Dave Clarke – Sound / Music Designer
Dave is a musician, actor and writer based in Edmonton, Alberta. He has composed music and produced sound designs for theatre, film, dance and multimedia for three decades. Designs for Northern Light Theatre include Space//Space, 6.0 Heap & Pebble (Sterling Award for Outstanding Score) and The Ecstatics (Sterling Nomination for Outstanding Score). Other designs include The Mountaintop (Theatre Calgary), Trunk Puppet (Old Trout Puppet Workshop), Elephant Song (Green Fools), Working It Out (Workers’ Health Centre), I Am For You (Concrete Theatre), and The Taming Of The Shrew (Free WIll). Dave is the child of deaf parents, and is working on a family musical on the subject called Songs My Mother Never Sung Me. He is also the sound guy for CBC Radio’s The Irrelevant Show.
Daniel MacIvor – Playwright
Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1962, Daniel MacIvor has earned wide acclaim as a director, actor, playwright and screenwriter. Having gained experience as a theatre student at Dalhousie University in Halifax and later George Brown College in Toronto, MacIvor went on in 1986 to found da da kamera, a touring theatre group that would subsequently produce a number of MacIvor’s plays and for which he has served as Artistic Director. As a playwright, MacIvor is known for his short, post-modern plays that very often feature extended monologues. In addition to garnering writing credits for these plays, MacIvor often acts in them as well. His acting career, however, began on television rather than the stage—his first appearance was in the Canadian TV show Street Legal in 1986. While MacIvor has played a number of roles on television, his most prominent one was as Nathan in Don McKellar’s hilarious CBC show Twitch City. As a writer, MacIvor has perhaps earned most widespread recognition for his 1998 Governor-General’s Award nominated play Marion Bridge, which was first produced at Mulgrave Road Theatre. The widespread success associated with this play, however, is most likely due to the 2002 film adaptation directed by Wiebke von Carolsfeld and starring Molly Parker. This film won Best Canadian First Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Not only has MacIvor received awards for his writing (including the Dora Mavor Moore Award, the Chalmers Award and the 2006 Governor-General’s Award), he has earned nominations for his acting as well. In 2000, MacIvor was nominated for the Leading Actor Genie for his role in the 1999 film The Five Senses. MacIvor has twice combined his skills as a film actor, director and writer in both Past Perfect (2002) and Wilby Wonderful (2004). Daniel MacIvor moved back to Halifax from Toronto. MacIvor travels widely and has been the writer-in-residence at the Tarragon Threatre, the National Theatre School and at Buddies in Bad Times. In 2008 he was awarded the prestigious Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize for playwriting.
Never Swim Alone at the Edmonton Fringe Festival
An interview with Luc Tellier.
Describe your show in five words.
Brotherhood. Friendship. Competition. Blame? Atonement?
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
At the heart of this play is a sacred friendship and brotherhood that began between Frank and Bill as kids. But a referee has locked them in a cut-throat competition where truths are revealed, and where being first has never been more important.
Why did you want to bring Never Swim Alone to Edmonton?
The story and the structure of this play have fascinated me for years, but I’ve only ever seen it done in high schools. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a perfect play for students to dive into – they often do an incredible job of it. But it’s really exciting to watch adult actors navigate their way through this text and do exactly what Blarney Production does best – go below the surface and unflinchingly ask ‘why.’
Never Swim Alone centres around a war of words between businessmen Frank and Bill lead by a mysterious young girl. Can you give us a sense of the questions or challenges she poses to the two men?
The competition starts off pretty surface-level and straight-forward. Who’s taller? Who’s better dressed? And then we get into the nitty-gritty of familial relationships, business ties, children, and the lengths each man will go to fight their way to the top.
You say in your press release that Never Swim Alone has been hailed as a landmark of Canadian theatre. Why do you think that is?
Well, I think what makes this show tick is that MacIvor presents a swirling, circular mystery locked in a rigid, structured format. Some clues are handed to us, others are alluded to, and there’s always an air of not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s a battle of words and tactics that can change on a dime.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
I want them to know EVERYTHING about the show! But more importantly, I want them to talk about it. The show is a total conversation, so come prepared to think. Choose a side. Question your choice. Change your side. Rise and repeat.