By Melissa Bubnic
Directed by Anne Browning
With: Ella Caldwell, Olga Makeeva, Tim Potter, Andrea Swifte, Giordano Gangl, Ian Rooney & James Taylor
Set: Peter Mumford
Lighting: Danny Pettingill
AV: Sam Santana
Stage Manager: Kyrilee Johnstone
A HUNDRED or so years ago the common genre for theatre was the drawing-room comedy, which typically explored the middle class mores of its intended audience. Later, in the 20th century, the action moved to the kitchen sink drama, emphasising the domestic anxieties of the time.
But the setting de jour for theatre and film is definitely the office, that public space of work that tests the morals and desires of the individual in society.
Melissa Bubnic’s new play Stop. Rewind for the Red Stitch Actors Theatre confirms this trend, charting the lives of seven workers in a local government office. The script never gets bogged down in office mechanics; rather, it poignantly and poetically examines how the intersection of public and private affairs shapes the choices and fortunes of characters.
Bubnic makes a feature of cleverly exposing the private thoughts that people have in delicate situations, and are usually left unspoken. Do you bite your tongue and suppress pent-up emotions, or speak your mind and reveal yourself? Here we see both options, with hilarious and poignant consequences.
A particular success of Stop. Rewind is the carefully pitched tone of this production. Director Anne Browning allows a variety of shades of style and rhythm, which builds depth and adds complexity.
The actors are well cast. It is especially pleasing to see Ella Caldwell return to the company ensemble, with an assured and mature performance. Olga Makeeva is a hoot as the plain-speaking Ukrainian that everyone admires but no one likes.
Giordano Gangl lets his face speak a thousand words of resignation.
Following the success of Tom Holloway’s Red Sky Morning, Bubnic’s Stop. Rewind is another feather in the cap for the Red Stitch Writers program, and solid justification for its ongoing support.
Martin Ball, The Age (26/7/2010)
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.
Liza Dezfouli, Australian Stage (25/07/10)
Melissa Bubnic’s uproariously biting Stop.Rewind is the latest offering from Red Stitch and only further cements them at the forefront of contemporary play production in Australia. Smart, acerbic and laugh-out-loud funny, Stop.Rewind is about the different roles we play and the masks we often wear.
Under the direction of Anne Browning, we see a well-timed, sharply acted vision of the modern day humdrum of the ‘rat-race’, with the characters feeling trapped and yearning to escape the doldrums of their every day existence. This story couldn’t be told through any other medium, with the characters acting as narrators, and intertwining stories and actions all working towards exhibiting that split personality that people have: one for work, and the other the subterranean world of their home lives; their true thoughts, fears and loves.
Savvy, sharp and finely acted, this is a play that works because it is so fabulously relatable. Performances by ensemble cast members and guest members were all strong, with the comic ability of Giordano Gangl as Trevor a particular highlight. Gangl manages to keep his face as droopy as the character he portrays, and is somewhat reminiscent of the Sandman character from Triple J in the 90s.
Underpinning the entire story is the tragic illness of a colleague that we never see, and this brings to a head the need for the characters to break out of the façade or normality they have created for themselves in the workplace and express their true desires.
At times the romantic plot lines, although finely acted (in particular by Ella Caldwell), do come a little out of left field and perhaps needed slightly more flushing out in the beginning scenes in order to be as laudable as they needed to be to carry emotions of such weight and consequence. However, the chemistry between the actors is enough to just about pull the scenes off despite this.
The set design is a fantastic wall of post-it notes, and scene changes are done with projections in a simple yet effective technique that allows the audience to know exactly where they are with little movement.
Writer Melissa Bubnic joined Red Stitch last year as a Writer in Residence and over the last 18 months Stop. Rewind has undergone extensive development through the Red Stitch Writers Program. She was brought to attention after winning the TAC short-film competition for road safety that enabled her to fund the short-film Wanker. It has only been up from there.
But most of all Stop.Rewind is entertaining, and in a climate of Australian theatre, where social realism often holds its depressing grip on our stage, it was refreshing to see something that genuinely funny without being trite, and dealt with hard-hitting emotions without boring us to tears.
Sarah Adams, Arts Hub (27/07/10)
ANYONE who has worked at the butt end of the public service will wince in recognition as they watch the staff of the DDDPTS, the local government office in Melissa Bubnic’s terrific new play Stop. Rewind.
Those who haven’t worked — or no longer work — in the lower depths of hell will rejoice. It’s like Pink Floyd’s song, Time made sickly flesh.
But this is no ordinary David Williamson or Roger Hall-style satire. First, we’re privy to the innermost thoughts of these frustrated, pathetic, thwarted losers, all hanging on in quiet desperation. We hear what they actually say and what they really want to say.
In a series of astonishingly concentrated scenes, the playwright reveals the inner lives of each of the workers. Many of their heartbreaks are avoidable . . . if only they dared to speak their minds.
Clearly, Bubnic has worked closely with the ensemble in the time she has been playwright in residence at Red Stitch. Stop. Rewind is Red Stitch near its very best.
Chris Boyd, Herald Sun (27/07/10)