Review: Swimmer (68) (Hopscotch Collective)

by Adam Collier

Swimmer (68) was onstage at the Glen Morris Studio Theatre from late May to the end of the first week of June. Hopscotch Collective produced the work.

Audience seating was arranged with, what felt like, a lot of space between chairs. And before the show began, the lighting fell in discreet patches around the space, making it hard to see.

Though almost every seat was taken, I felt apart from the people around me.

Swimmer (68) begins with a voiceover. In a flat tone, a man tells us of a dream, in which he is apparently trapped in a room. Suddenly a performer – Ker Wells – bursts into the space, which is sort-of an alley that the audience faces from two sides.

He’s wearing just a bathing suit.

From that point on, Mr. Wells recalls memories of his father, and a girl named “Lucy” as the world of the theatre around him seems to mirror his thoughts.

For example, there are at least four projectors that transform the walls and the performer’s body with imagery. Cameron Davis is credited as the projection designer.

The use of sound, or more specifically, sound effects like splashing, it seemed to me, seamlessly join environments referred to, and alluded to in the text, with the action on stage. Richard Windeyer is credited as the sound designer and operator. Mr. Wells is credited with the text.

As a work of technical design, Swimmer (68) has a lot to offer.

Other technical credits include Laird MacDonald for lighting and Paul Stoesser as the technical director. Teo Balcu and Lois Wong were also on the crew.

I like that there are people in theatre like this technical team that are willing and, it seems, committed to non-traditional techniques of exploration in the performing arts.

Another example of this is Lear, which went up at the Hatch Festival earlier this year.

But, the substance of Swimmer (68), as a whole, was confusing to me.

At one point I thought the central event might be a drowning, or something involving “Lucy.” But I couldn’t tell for sure.

The ambiguity was frustrating to me. Not frustrating in the good sense, though.

Like, for example, some of the works at Ryerson’s recent New Voice’s festival were frustrating to me, because they seemed so true.

There might have been a narrative, or a momentum to the scenes that I missed. For example, the audience member sitting nearest to me, it seemed from his postures, was quite engaged by the work.

But just didn’t get it.

I’m told that Bruce Barton, credited as the director and the co-creator – presumably with Mr. Wells – is a brilliant guy. So maybe I just can’t appreciate the genius of Swimmer (68).


Swimmer (68) runs to June 4th at the Glen Morris Studio (4 Glen Morris St; a couple of blocks down from Bloor Street, to the east of Spadina)

– Tickets cost $20 for general admission, and $10 for students.

– Please call 416-978-7986