Theatre: Standstill

By Dionne Christian

Josephine Stewart Tewhiu, Kevin Keys and Andi Crown star in Standstill. Photo / Anna Revell
Josephine Stewart Tewhiu, Kevin Keys and Andi Crown star in Standstill. Photo / Anna Revell

What: Standstill
Where and when: Q Loft, May 30-June 9

Actors sweating it out on treadmills and talking about lost dreams, have won favour with audiences and critics alike.

A play about failure - which features three actors sweating it out on treadmills - looks set to be one of the biggest successes to date for independent theatre company the Rebel Alliance.

Creative New Zealand has given the company, founded in 2005 by Anders Falstie-Jensen, Michael Downey and Catherine Nola, money to tour its production of Standstill to three North Island venues including Q's Loft theatre.

Standstill was written by Falstie-Jensen after he pitched a "vague idea" to the Auckland Fringe Festival for a play where the actors spend most of their time jogging on treadmills. They proved an apt addition given Standstill incorporates a number of true stories and wry observations to examine what happens when we reach a crossroads in life and realise things aren't working out as we had hoped.

"A lot of people naturally read the treadmills as some kind of metaphor but, for me, I just thought they looked really cool. They also ended up being a neat solution to an actor's constant need for an action.

"Actors often struggle with what to do with themselves on stage; they need a cigarette or a cup or a piece of paper or some kind of thing they can do while they act or they feel like they're standing for too long in a corner of the stage. This way they just had to focus on walking (or running) and saying the lines."

Falstie-Jensen's script was inspired by a conversation with his father a decade or so ago when he warned that young people have to adjust their expectations of life and realise they might not set the world alight.

Having just started his career in the arts, where the mantra is "if you believe in yourself, your dreams will come true", the buoyantly optimistic Falstie-Jensen junior disagreed vehemently.

"Fast-forward 13 years and well, I'm not a fighter pilot or a world famous actor/director so while I hate to admit it, maybe my dad was right. Standstill is about the moment in time when you realise maybe the dreams you had aren't going to happen. What do you do?"

While Falstie-Jensen might not be world famous (yet), the Rebel Alliance has built a loyal following with plays such as The Orderly, A Night of French Mayhem, The Bomb and Grace. It is the second time in a year that CNZ has given the company money. Last year it received funding to stage the first Auckland season of writer Albert Belz' award-winning play Yours Truly about Jack the Ripper.

However, most of its plays have been written by the company itself and, though each is stylistically different, they prompt questions about whether there is such a thing as an "ordinary life". Standstill was staged first at last year's Auckland Fringe Festival then, because of demand, at the Auckland Performing Arts Centre (Tapac), wowing audiences and critics each time.

One reviewer said if Standstill had been performed in Britain, it would have been hailed as a contemporary classic.

Falstie-Jensen believes it appeals because it is darkly humorous and dares to delve into a subject many of us try to avoid.

"Most people have dreams or aspirations that they are hoping to - but might not - reach."

The cast of Kevin Keys, Andi Crown and Josephine Stewart Tewhiu is new. Falstie-Jensen was adamant he didn't want them working out in preparation for pounding the treadmills: "It looks more realistic when the actors are out of breath and all sweaty."

- NZ Herald

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