3 actors, 3 treadmills, 60 minutes [by Sharu Delilkan]
Working on a show that has had a previous incarnation can be daunting. But when it has been a huge success it is an even bigger ask.
So it's not surprising that actor Andi Crown was a little hesitant when director-writer Anders Falstie-Jensen asked her to act in Standstill.
"I must admit I was anxious that Anders would wanting the blocking [the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance] to be exactly the same as the last time. So I approached the first rehearsal with trepidation but when I noticed Anders chuckling and laughing out loud, when we tried out new things, I knew I had made the right decision to get involved."
Another challenge was that Crown had never seen the show before.
"Of course I had seen the images around with the actors looking pained and sweaty and had thought the treadmill device was an interesting concept. So when Anders gave me the script and the DVD, it was a toss up whether to watch the DVD or not. In the end I only watched two minutes and turned it off – just to see what the visual aspect was like. I didn’t watch anymore so that I wouldn't get influenced," she says.
Inspired by true stories and propelled by a fierce undercurrent of desperation, Standstill weaves tales of factory workers, cyclists, doctors and tour guides into a sweaty kaleidoscopic image of what happens when our dreams and ambitions collide with the lives we end up living.
Q opens in triumph, Fringe overshadows Festival, Outfit Rise, Rugby, Rugby, Rugby, and the Death of the Theatre. [by James Wenley]
Attending the recent Hackman Theatre awards, Auckland Theatre circa 2011 would appear to be in rude health. Rude being the word, hosts Nic Sampson and Joseph Moore proudly observing it was a record year of nudity on stage, from the very brave Mr. Sam Seddon in The Only Child to the Dame bosoms of the Calendar Girls. It was certainly year that didn’t leave much to the imagination, containing everything from dildos to knitted phalluses, bath tubs to swimming pools.
The Hackmans were a big communal pat on the back for the industry, a brash and bold celebration of a huge year in theatre. As Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Robyn Malcom closed the awards night performing in a Thomas Sainsbury play that he had written under duress that very night, there was a sense that anything and everything was possible.
As a critic moving from Craccum to my own Theatre Scenes blog this year, I’ve welcomed the end-of-year theatre break. Throughout the year, I could often be heard to exclaim: ‘Auckland Theatre: There is too much of you!’. It’s been exhausting going to opening to opening night after night. And immensely rewarding. While containing some duds for sure, my impression of the year is one of great strength and eclectic activity. There was no shortage of things to write about at least. There was always something on. Between fellow blogger Sharu Delilkan and me, we reviewed or previewed 96 different shows, and even that barely scratched the surface.
I hardly saw thee… [by James Wenley]
Last night the Auckland Fringe Festival closing night was partied away in exuberant style to a live Swing band, after the awards had been handed out, in the stunning Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent in Aotea Square. The Spiegeltent was a ‘loan’, of sorts, from the Mumma Auckland Arts Festival. Whereas the prestigious Arts Festival (one week left!) provides for amazing local and international work on the larger stages, Auckland Fringe, over the last 2+ weeks, seems to have taken over every possible remaining venue (and non-venue) and delivered work that was intimate, thrilling and bafflingly unexpected. Auckland: We’ve got talent.
Tim Balme, representing South Pacific Studios in handing out the Fringe performance awards, had the quote of the night – “Without Fringe there would be no edge, and with no edge, things would get soft in the middle”. Well, it seemed profound at the time. Mark Burlace from Mamma Festival said that the two festivals have “united this city”. Fringe Festivals the world over are one of the main training grounds for performing talent. Having so much other work on at the same time can be both a blessing and a curse, and you’ll quickly learn how to swim, and hopefully not sink (or at least move to the shallow end of the Parnell Baths!).
Anywhere but Shady Meadows!
There is something very disconcerting watching Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart -Tewhiu play elderly characters in their devised Fringe play Chalk. These gorgeous young performers transform and contract their bodies in such a believable way that the characters have a sense of the uncanny.
Welcome to Shady Meadows Retirement home. A commercial voice over tells us all the great activities and facilities the home has, and how they encourage their residents to reach their “human potential”… meanwhile two of the elderly residents sit firmly chair bound with little to do. Isla and Josephine play multiple characters including the elderly residents, the workers, and younger visitors.
They switch between these characters with ease, aided by Abigail Greenwood’s direction. The audience favourite is Nina, a proud Maori grandmother with a warm humour, who packs her bags every day, convinced that her family is going to come and get her. She shares her scenes with Josephine’s Alice - her grandmother, who wants only to see her elder grand-daughter and not Alice, has dementia (painfully moving). Nina and Alice strike up an unlikely friendship and help each other deal with life and absent families. Isla and Josephine produce performances that are full of humour, heart, and integrity.
Unlike their previous work Ruby Tuesday, which was a huge hit for the inaugural Fringe festival, this piece isn’t as continuously laugh out loud funny. This is no criticism, for this work deals with some pretty deeply felt universal fears: aging, abandonment, losing your sense of self. Most of the humour arrives organically from the character’s personalities and their situation, the ‘overtly’ funny and shallower characters like Shady Meadows workers Clint (Isla) and the immature Karen (Josephine) are less successful, though they have their moments. I feel there is more material to be explored with the workers, particularly how dealing with elderly and frequent death affects their emotional lives. The announcement towards the end of the play poignantly farewells one of the residents that died that day, but cheerfully welcomes the next person who is moving into the vacated rooms the following day.
The elderly frequently ask how their families could have left them there. Retirement living is a fraught debate, and Isla and Josephine pull it off with deep sensitivity. At my more tender age, it certainly bought up stuff for me that I know is inevitable, but don’t actively engage and think about. In this respect, the play absolutely succeeds; exploring these big issues in a gentle way without trivialisng them.
I enjoyed spending time at the Shady Meadows Retirement home and with these characters. Chalk is a deeply felt play that leaves me both hopeful about the aging process, and also thoroughly terrified!
Chalk plays as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival at the Basement Theatre until 6th March.
More information at the Auckland Fringe Website.