Photos - Jodie Hutchinson
Stop. Rewind is an unequivocal success. A triumph for young writer Melissa Bubnic, the cast and director, the Red Stitch Writers Program, and a heartily inspiring sample of what the stage does best. The playwright is currently studying in London and clearly has a terrific future in writing for theatre.
Stop. Rewind explores the compromise of vitality and the erosion of dreams that working for ‘the man’ inevitably brings. The sad trickling away of creative energy, the accumulative effect of turning up day after day to the office politics of a dead end job, are expressed here with a sure touch. The script, the performances and the direction allow this work of indie theatre to cross the border into accessible, commercially viable territory without compromising on grit, freshness or meaning. Stop. Rewind is light but not lightweight. It is a comedy that beautifully balances light and dark and doesn’t mop up with a happy ending. It’s got plenty to say without spelling any of it out in capitals. Best yet, it has vibrantly believable characters you get to care about who grow and develop in the story; instantly recognizable types we’ve all worked alongside yet who are still individuals. This is anything but a stage version of The Offfice; the characters are played large but avoid cliché. Three guest actors, Ian Rooney, James Taylor and Giordano Gangl, join Red Stitch ensemble members Tim Potter, Ella Caldwell, Andrea Swift and Olga Markeeva, comprising a strong team under the direction of Anne Browning. The cast bring the peculiarities of office culture, where you have to survive being a sort of version of yourself whilst never telling the whole truth and pretending to care about the work, hilariously and excruciatingly to life.
A colleague’s death forces a group of co-workers to reassess their lives, their choices, and the reasons for doing what they do. Stop. Rewind takes an original approach where the cast take turns to narrate or signpost each other’s stories – a nice device which keeps the momentum dancing. What might have been moments of ‘sagging middle-of-the-playness’ underlines the killing tedium of the week in, year out, decades-lost life of office work. There’s a distinctive voice here questioning just what ambition might lead one to do and whether or not it is ultimately worth it.
Stop. Rewind resolutely succeeds in what it promises: that is, to show us distracting ourselves from the truth of our sad little lives with affairs, consumerism, fantasy, tyranny over others and occasional, defiant flickers of assertiveness or minute acts of heroism. Stop. Rewind shines the spotlight on the pitfalls of our aspirational, consumerist society and our unquestioning pursuit of what we think we want. Small people all have their stories, their reasons, the dreams of romance they cling to despite reality. Slowly and surely the nine-to-five life destroys precious things while enabling one to pay the bills.
Go and see Stop. Rewind – it is very funny and a hugely satisfying, well-developed piece which will delight many more once it goes on tour.
Red Stitch presents
by Melissa Bubnic
Directed by Anne Browning
Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre | Rear, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda
Dates: Friday 23 July – Saturday 21 August
Times: Wednesday – Saturday 8.00pm, Sunday 6.30pm
Bookings: (03) 9533 8083 | www.redstitch.net