AMUSING AND BEMUSING
written and directed by Anders Falstie-Jensen
The Rebel Alliance
at BATS, Wellington
From 14 Jun 2012 to 23 Jun 2012
Reviewed by John Smythe, 15 Jun 2012
Back in 2001, at what was then Circa Studio, we watched Jed Brophy and Eryn Wilson evoke a 15km New York Marathon training run on treadmills, in Edoardo Erba's Marathon (English version by Colin Teevan). Of course there was more to the characters, their relationship(s), their stories and the treadmills-as-metaphor than initially met our eyes, ears and brains.
Now at Bats, Anders Falstie-Jensen's ironically-named Standstill is simultaneously less complex, insightful and profound in its contents, and more varied in its physical presentation. Three actors play two or three characters each, plus the odd other, in an episodic series of monologues and sketched scenarios.
Colin the Cambridge Cannonball – Kevin Keys – has the most substantial story to tell, albeit as monologue in the past tense, about his stellar competitive cycling career, what provoked it and what has come after. His driven personality is well-represented on the treadmill.
Andi Crown conveys the growing concerns of Doctor Peter Thomas (why not Peta?) as male nurse John (Keys), who was once a hairdresser, intrudes too far into his personal world. I'm not sure what value the treadmill adds to this one, beyond being impressed at the actors' ability to play it out quite naturally while maintaining the alternative pacing of the machine.
The vocal and physical dynamics of the quintessential Power Speaker are perfectly captured with true comic skill by Josephine Stewart Tewhiu, as Crown and Keys labour to become the best they can possibly be, doomed to run forever towards the elusive goal.
In this era of independent competitive questing for funding, contracts and/or jobs – in the arts, as in many other sectors – the series of professionally modulated Kafkaesque conversations between the Adviser (Crown) and Applicant / Supplicant (Keys) about why he just missed out this time and whether he should apply again is agonisingly funny. Here the treadmills represent the relentless process one dares not step away from, just in case one's number really does come up next time.
The lot of the production-line worker is more literally evoked when the treadmills become conveyor belts carrying cans to be processed by Josephine, Kevin and Andi. This series of sketched evolve into a darkly absurdist-cum-Kafkaesque scenario wherein Dispatch is a hell-hole to which recalcitrant workers are consigned before it takes a turn that makes the endless line of look-alike cans a metaphor for meaninglessness.
Crown's Tour Guide for snappy German Tourists takes us from Cape Reinga through Auckland to Wellington, allowing for some witty quips en route to the final destination, which I won't reveal but it has interesting metaphysical implications concerning the nature of journey's and theatre itself.
Overall the disparate parts are unified around the core imperative to keep going, do what you can, aim high, go hard and, as the ‘Lonely Planet' song says, “If you can't change the world, change yourself.”
Given the material writer-director (producer and publicist) Anders Falstie-Jensen has pulled together and the commitment the talented trio of actors bring to Standstill, I am bemused that while I was amused and interested by effectively demonstrated skills and ideas, I was not really engaged, let alone compelled, confronted or challenged by the characters, their stories or concerns.
For some elusive reason I feel that although it offers a good hour well spent at Bats, there is greater potential in the premise and more to be wrought from it as a play.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.
See also reviews by:
Ewen Coleman (The Dominion Post);
Janet McAllister (New Zealand Herald online);