BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

20/10/2021 - 20/10/2021

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

25/02/2022 - 26/02/2022

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

03/09/2022 - 11/09/2022

Hihiaua Cultural Centre 56–58 Herekino St, CBD, Whangarei

30/09/2022 - 02/10/2022

Te Whare o Rukutia, 20 Princes St, Dunedin

18/10/2022 - 19/10/2022

NZ Fringe Festival 2022

TAHI Festival 2021


Whangārei Fringe 2022

Dunedin Arts Festival 2022

Production Details

The Rebel Alliance invites you into 95-year-old Inga’s living room in Denmark as she reaches out through space and time to her grandson in New Zealand. 

Inga has seen world wars, cold wars, and civil wars. In real life and on TV. And when you’re close to 100 you know a thing or two about a thing or two. Sometimes all you need is an old lady to set you straight.

It’s theatre, but only just!

Due to actor Anders Falstie-Jensen not being able to attend TAHI Festival due to Auckland Level 3 restrictions – Back to Square One? will now be performed live in Wellington with guest actor Salesi Le’ota – get your tickets today!

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage
20 October 2021
The Difference $40
Full Price $22
Group 6+ $18
Concession Price $15

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

See more this TAHI FESTIVAL with a TAHI TASTER Season Pass!
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19-23 October
A celebration of solo performance, TAHI is a five-day Festival at BATS Theatre dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo theatre from all around Aotearoa.
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Friday 27 & Saturday 26 February 2022

Creative Team
Written by Anders Falstie-Jensen
Performed by Salesi Le'ota
Dramaturgy by Simon O'Connor

Performed by Anders Falstie-Jensen

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr

A reminder of the eternal value and range of theatre

Review by Terry MacTavish 20th Oct 2022

Absolutely astonishing, the range of performance to which theatre promiscuously lends itself, and the Rebel Alliance, that ‘rogue squadron’ of experienced theatre practitioners, takes full advantage of its generous flexibility, in productions that range from Manifesto 2083, which explores the mind of the Norwegian who murdered 77 young people in a terror attack, to Watching Paint Dry, which is just what it claims.

Back to Square One? is something new yet again: theatre, Jim, but not as we know it. Stage and audience at Te Whare O Rukutia have been reversed, the acting space now on the floor, marked out by a rubber mat. Immediately we are given chalk and invited to write our names around its edges, an old teacher’s trick to ensure our involvement, that also has us recognising friends and chatting to each other, feet tapping to Heard it Through the Grapevine … Then Anders Falstie-Jensen is among us, a relaxed and unassuming figure in jeans, glasses and white t-shirt, taking up the chalk to sketch on the mat his grandmother’s neat living room in Denmark, April 2020.

Inga is 95, he tells us, drawing the outline of her sofa for lunchtime naps, the wee table with the apple iPad, the door to the tiny balcony, the bookshelf with photos of the great-grandchildren, the dining table with fish on a dish, the central circular table that apparently you must have, if you live in Denmark. Cosy. But it is a little world, a very little world for a whole lockdown.

And now the actor has morphed into Inga, ‘I don’t speak English, but let’s pretend I do’, apologising in a soft Danish accent for not skyping, ‘but I am asleep right now’. How has she survived the pandemic? Her routine is mostly the same, but she has lost track of time, there are too many characters in Game of Thrones, and Lilian cannot come to give her showers twice a week. But how does that matter, when through her childhood they had just one bath a month, in the tub in front of the kitchen fire?

And her grandson Anders, re-evaluating his priorities, has made the decision to phone her every day. Is covid like being in the war? No, she answers, there was one shared enemy then, now who to blame? Just nature. Old people don’t care about rules. What you can and can’t do. The lights are all on – I see old ladies on either side of me nodding.

Falstie-Jensen tells us he likes to imagine himself as God, looking down on the world. Brilliant. And just like that, the circular central table has turned into the earth, Anders confidently wielding the chalk to indicate New Zealand Aotearoa at the centre.

Rapt, we share his view. Planes stop flying. Migrants are trapped. Terrified politicians try to give answers they don’t have, to people who want answers. But from high above you can ‘see’ the silence. The smog clears, people are out running, children playing, there are whales in Wellington Harbour and pukeko on roads as if they own them.

We all see a world that is changing, Inga certainly did, says her grandson, and now he draws us into the fascinating mythology of the Vikings, those seafaring ancestors of the Danes, tales of Odin and dragons, warfare and fire, terrible bedtime stories for children, and the table world is redrawn as the Tree of Life. Once more we are asked to take up the chalk and draw lines from our names to the great Tree: look how we interconnect, all of us.

How many other countries does our little audience connect to? Encouraged by the easy charm of Anders, each of us in turn names the countries where we have friends and family, while Anders keeps count. I guess the total might amount to 60. It is more, so I am not the one to win the chocolate. The gentle moral of this not-theatre is pretty clear now. In times of crisis, what really matters? What have we learnt? And after, will it all have been for nothing?

I love the story not just of Inga, but of the inception of Back to Square One? The official premiere took place in the author’s driveway, inspired by his daughter’s chalk drawings and shared with neighbours who are also represented in the play. Here in Dunedin it was first shown in the flowery garden of the Dramaturg, Simon O’Connor, and since then it has been seen in a myriad of settings.

For this audience, happily taking tea together while consuming Inga’s delicious cake, it has certainly been a moving, shared experience, a reminder of our part in what Anders calls ‘this grand thing – the Great Pause of 2020’, and also a gentle challenge to see what good can come of it.

For me, Back to Square One? is a reminder of the eternal value as well as the range of theatre. On the surface the play is about a 95-year-old Danish woman, who speaks neither English nor Māori and has never set foot in New Zealand, but through the talent of the creators it has universal relevance.

Those of us currently spewing dragon fire over the denial of funding to the SGCNZUOSW Shakespeare Festival, citing the Bard’s so-called ‘irrelevance to Aotearoa’, * are well aware that true theatre, like Shakespeare’s and indeed like that of the Rebel Alliance, is all about revealing to us our common humanity. We are not alone. What could ever be more relevant than that?

* Attracting less publicity, but extremely concerning to all of us in the South, is the extraordinary decision by CNZ not to fund Dunedin’s amazing Fringe Festival, which enlivens the city and provides desperately needed support to so many local and national artists.


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Review by Penny Fitt 01st Oct 2022

It’s the opening night of the Whangarei Fringe Festival and we are sitting in a brightly lit gallery space at Hihiaua, surrounded by artworks, weaving and carving. The great entrance door stands opens to the river. Light rain falls on the grass outside. How special it is to be sitting in a small semi-circle of chairs to watch live performance again.

The piece is Back to Square One? It’s a solo show written and performed by Anders Falstie-Jensen based on the relationship between Anders and his 95 year old grandmother, Inga, who lives alone in Denmark during the 2020 lockdown.

Anders begins by chalking out the dimensions of Inge’s apartment across the concrete floor of the gallery space at our feet; carefully marking out furniture, doors and windows. He talks as he chalks, gently revealing Inge’s determined spirit, her confined space, her tiny balcony and her beloved family – present in the form of photos on her shelves. He draws the ipad on the table that is the window through which he gets to grow this relationship in these strange times.

This is a touching piece, poignant in its simplicity and lack of artifice. It is Anders’ own story. It feels generous in its open frank telling. The richness of the experience, however comes through the interweaving of this reality with fragments of Danish mythology. These are sagas of destruction with heroes facing apocalyptic times, fear, death, Gods, dragons and, of course, wise old women. These stories pull us out of the everyday and invite us to seek perspective on the events we have just lived through.

Back to Square One? had its first outing in 2020 in Anders’ driveway in Auckland, where it was performed for his neighbours. “Because all theatres were closed” Anders explains, “touring was impossible so I decided to just make a show for my neighbours that could bring us all together”. As Anders continues to develop this piece, ‘bringing us together’ is clearly still at the heart of his work. We are literally ‘drawn together’. We share our names, we share our own connections as we map the links we have across the globe, and afterwards we share a coffee and the taste of home-made Danish pastries.

Watching Anders share his story live with us in this non-theatre space is a treat. I thought I might feel short-changed that I didn’t get to see outside it in a cul-de-sac or a school playground, but how appropriate that behind him is a shelf of beautiful woven kete. So much of this experience is a weaving together, a gathering of precious treasures and a chance to be with others again sharing stories.


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Gloriously convincing leaps into myth

Review by Dave Smith 04th Sep 2022

We are in a theatre during the ever-present pandemic. The audience is wearing the compulsory masks and the sole actor is creating his set using large blocks of chalk on the black floor and back wall. The unlamented Rolf Harris creating thematic sets with tinned paint in the 60s spring all too readily, perhaps, to mind.

We’ve already been invited to write out names in chalk on the periphery of the stage. Is this going to be a lecture in the talk-and-chalk school of inaction? No, relax folks. The play is lecture length (50 or so minutes) but that merely underscores how philosophically to-the-point it is.

All you need for a play is a space, an actor and some communicable ideas. Ideologues need not apply. Anders is not an ideologue. He just wants to encapsulate the pressing dilemmas of our age in a minimalist space; armed only with the keen machete of his wit and a nice way of putting things across. Rather like doing brain surgery with a penknife in an open-air carpark.

The title says it all. We live in a time of dark looming clouds of worry. The four horsemen are back doing a grim musical called Apocalypse (again). Worry not, we have been here before – lots of times. We are just due for an internal reset.

So rather than taking on the one o’clock briefings, the team of 5 million, the idiot protests at Parliament, points-scoring politicians and the injustices of MIQ, our lad bravely and confidently chalks up his ‘set’ and tells us about a star 95 year-old grandmother Inga (somewhere in Denmark). The set is her unmemorable living room of tables, chairs and treasured picture of grandchildren. One of them, at least, is living over here so the flags of New Zealand and Denmark are dutifully rendered in garish chalk.

Inga is the big wheel in the piece and Anders is her messenger, occasionally giving us a shot blast of Danish but freely admiring that Gran has no English so he’ll do the job for her. She regularly visits (per medium of Skype) her Kiwi grandson. That is her overriding and urgent compulsion in life. Talking to us is secondary, but by only the finest of margins.

You see, Inga is anointed with a profound understanding of the modern world. She knows how humans have always judged the age they live as being (a) the most momentous in history and (b) the beginning of the end. It never is. Distractions like Covid and economic slump (or even punishing wars) are just symptoms of our passing from one point in history to another. And, invariably, we forget the unity we have as people of the Earth who stand “heart to heart, hand to hand” (in the imperishable words of Dr Seuss).

So at one point the developing story involves Anders directly divining, from the entire audience, the number of worldwide connections they have among the modern-day brotherhood of man. Turns out we had 52 such vital links. Chalk lines get drawn between those baffling names of ours straight to a giant imagined tree in the middle of the ‘room’. This tree, like the tales he tells of Tor [sic] and other mighty Scandinavian gods are what allow Inga to assert that the Earth has wired-in antecedents that are way more determinative than the greasy-poled clowns now governing the world could ever hope be.

Sure, we inevitably go through flat periods but the central life force we have easily dispels those in time, though watching three years’ worth of Games of Thrones is no way to oust the malaise. Rather, we need to develop a heightened sense of self and the beauty of the world (minus those choking fossil fuels) that was the hallmark of the FIRST lockdown here – the ultimate learning experience.

To ram home that central insight Anders/Inga tell of the Danish experience during World War Two. (She was born the year Hitler wrote Mein Kampf). In that sad down period Denmark was reduced to the role of a flat comparative spectator. It was occupied by the Wehrmacht, that possessed but did not ‘own’ it. Anders delivers highly pertinent observations of what the Danes saw, as the German war trains rolled through for six years. The link with Covid and our own lives is comforting. As Winston Church put it “Live dangerously. All will be well”. (Inga has recently been in hospital with pneumonia but has continued to power through.)

This is not in any way a scholarly work but it is gloriously convincing. It makes breath-taking leaps of faith and lunges unashamedly into the heady realms of myth.  As they sometimes say, a man with an experience and a confident mien is always the match of a man with a joyless argument. And not only is there nourishment for the soul. On the way out you get a small hunk of special Danish cake to savour. No mere scribbler can top that.

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Beautifully crafted, heart-warming, life affirming

Review by Lynn Bushell 26th Feb 2022

I am intrigued as I enter BATS Dome theatre space and am handed a piece of chalk to write my name on the stage floor. Anders Falstie-Jensen waits for our socially distanced, mask wearing audience to settle before taking centre stage to welcome us in Māori, Danish and English. Like a modern-day Viking Skald, Anders begins to intertwine mythology, personal experience and history to reveal the story of his conversations during the 2020 lockdown with his 95-year-old grandmother, Inga, who lives in a one room apartment, isolated and alone, in Denmark.

Inga “knows a thing or two about a thing or two” at 95 years of age. She’s lived through WWII, cold wars and civil wars. This time she says, “There is no common enemy”. Mother nature has stopped the world. Inga’s question is how we will look back on ‘this great pause’ What will we learn? “What is urgent?” Anders comes to understand that it is having time to speak to his grandmother and not become consumed by the grind of daily life.

Originally written for outdoor performance after the first lockdown, this production continues the minimalist approach with a bare stage except for a chalked floor plan of Inga’s living room drawn by Anders on the stage. Heaps of chalk is used as this floor plan morphs into different elements to support the story. There’s even a Viking God and Dragon who make an appearance.

Anders’ easy style draws us into his story of ordinary people living ordinary lives as we empathise with their fears, frailties, hopes and dreams in a very relatable and enjoyable way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this heart-warming, life affirming story of love, family, and the need to communicate which ultimately celebrates the indomitable spirit of 95-year-old Inga.  Beautifully crafted, it will bring a smile to your face long after you leave the theatre. 


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A heart-warming story, told with warmth and sincerity

Review by Margaret Austin 21st Oct 2021

I’m at BATS Random, feeling bemused. I’ve only had one glass of wine, but I’ve been asked to chalk my name on the stage before heading for my seat and now I’m puzzled by the programme. I thought I was supposed to be seeing a show called ‘Back to Square One?’ written and performed by one Anders Falstie-Jensen. He lives in New Zealand, and he’s evidently created a piece dedicated to his 95-year old grandmother Inga who lives in Denmark.

“I’m sorry for those who came to see Anders,” says the person who is decidedly not Anders. “I’m sorry for myself”, he adds. And we’re getting Salesi Le’ota, who’s taking the place of Anders who’s stuck in Auckland. There’s been a series of frantic Zoom calls and Le’ota, already a busy theatrical two-hat wearer – Circa Council member, Playmarket’s Publication and Event Coordinator– has thrown his hat into the ring as replacement for Anders.

I could be forgiven for thinking the Improvisation Festival was not over! Le’ota introduces the grandmother whose story it is and at the same time chalks the arrangement of her home, including furniture, family photos, bookshelf, doorways, on the stage. His chalking is a bit wonky. “I’ve never been very good at straight,” he remarks, and that really sets the tone of the evening: unselfconscious, spontaneous and good natured. “I also want to remind myself of my next line,” he says, wandering casually over to the wall where his script is laid out – just in case. 

Le’ota’s easy manner contrasts with the story he’s telling. Inga, at her grand old age, knows a thing or two, and wants to impart them. She sees a world changing. She sees silence, she sees politicians trying to hide their fear of failure, but she also sees children playing. We learn about our interconnectedness: when asked how many connections we individually have to other countries and nationalities, we come up with 32. 

“What’s urgent?” asks Inga. “What’s really urgent?” And Anders’ answer? Simple and salutary: to speak to his grandmother every day.

This is a heart-warming story – told with appropriate warmth and sincerity. Anders, Salesi has done you proud. What a shame that this is the only performance. 


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