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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 

von Wantoch
False Start
July 21, 2022

False Start: a theatrical, musical and physical project. Four performers put themselves in the shoes of sprinters, depicting their relentless preparation for the race. False Start takes its inspiration from sport (the sprint) to question our society's obsession with speed, success and the cult of the body and performance. The project explores our relationship with failure as part of a quest for glory, dreams of flight and surpassing ourselves.


Hi Ingrid, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe & Summerhall this summer?


It is great and exciting, especially after two years of Covid (this project was initially scheduled in 2020). Because of eternal reports, the process of this project has been very particular (short rehearsal moments spread out during the year). So finally, playing in front of an audience at Summerhall / Edinburgh Fringe will be a relief!


You have had an incredible run with False Start since your ‘flash’ version in 2018, was it always your intention to create a 55 minute version?


Our starting point was indeed a 5 minute version. The aim was to imagine a way to open up for new audiences, out of our usual theatre stages and programs. The “flash” version was made and presented in collaboration with a sport event (“XL10 Miles marathon” in Brussels) during the medal ceremony as a surprise for the winners (in front of all the runners and their families). I like this way of provoking theatre in spaces where it is not expected and where it is a challenge for us to be creative.


We had the 20 minutes performance in mind and performed it in two festivals (France and Belgium). It was Verity Leigh, the former director of the Summerhall, who asked us to imagine a longer version for the Fringe. Her demand was very challenging and after several brainstormings and a lot of research we finally have the version we were aiming for. Playing at the Fringe is also a way for us to confront this project with and international and curious audience.


The reviews you have again for the previous versions of False Start have been incredible and the production seems to have really been understood by your audiences. What has it meant to you to get this type of praise for the show?


Good reviews are always encouraging and the foundation that allow us to risk to go further, deeper, to be sharper (to quote the olympic slogan: “higher, stronger, faster”). They definitely gave us the drive to create the 55 minutes show.


Will there be any nerves ahead of your Fringe premiere?


Because of the long research phase before finding the right way and angle to land False Start we might be nervous because we have had a limited time to “deliver”. But we are also very excited to confront a real audience.


Is there any one comment you have received for False Start that has really connected to you as a creator?


I have had very positive comments but also some that didn’t really get the essence of the show. This second type of feedback didn’t get me down but drove us as a team into the process and research required for the long version. To be honest, we made lots of detours to finally find the way to approach our subject. There was a point where we all were lost. Something didn’t feel right. Funnily, we were totally involved like sprinters going from one false start to the other! This constant failure made the process difficult but forced me to find the frame in which to present the material thus allowing us to make a good start this august!

Can you tell me how False Start came about, how did you go about creating the longer version of False Start?


Maybe you know the story of Usain Bolt’s false start, if not, let me tell you:


21 August 2011 Daegu, South Korea, the World Athletics Championship. Sprint legend Usain Bolt looks more tense than usual. In the 100 m final, the world record holder does the unthinkable: he anticipates the permission to leave the blocks and moves before the starter gives the signal – the false start means immediate disqualification. There is widespread consternation. The planet’s fastest athlete falls apart before the incredulous eyes of the whole world. The god of the stadium has suddenly become profoundly human again. The mistake takes less than a tenth of a second. What happened that day shook the whole world and provided the starting point for this project.


Preparation for the 100 m, one of the most iconic races in athletics, demands relentless training for years in the hope of landing an Olympic gold medal – the holy grail of every sportsperson. It is the only discipline in which style, technique, courage, speed, nerves of steel, endurance and strength (the essence of any sport) are perfectly combined. It is the infinitely small (we’re talking tenths of a second) that separates the amateur from the GOAT (“greatest of all times”). Their bodies are subjected to extremely strict training and physical strains, and the relationship with the coach is crucial. But even a single grain of sand can jam a high-precision machine. In a setting with extreme levels of tension, pressure and high standards, it can all suddenly fall apart, control can be shaken and moves can misfire.


False Start uses theatrical means to explore the vulnerability within this quest for glory, but also the link between the athlete and the coach, the repercussions in the media and the collective, almost religious, fervour through the vibrations, sounds and clamour of an entire stadium.


Do you allow yourself much flexibility with your show once it’s running?


Once we have the show, we stick to it. We have a fixed soundscape that determines the rhythm, like an imperturbable clock. But inside this rigorous time frame, the actors show their humanity and vulnerability. They will be physically tired because of eternal repetitions and obsessions. As a team, we will continue working every day on details so the show stays vivid.


What would you say has been the most valuable lessons you have taken from the journey you have been on with False Start?


The challenge of this project is to make a longer piece out of one tragic moment that represents a fraction of a second. How do you transpose years and years of work and sweat to be ready for this one moment that might transform your life? How to make a performance about actors-sprinters wanting to defeat time and eternity?


The big lesson of creating this form was to accept being totally desperate and lost in the process, nevertheless not giving up, starting again and again, not losing faith. Strangely like the attitude of athletes who have to persevere and go beyond the difficulty with tenacity and humility.

Have you always had a passion for theatre?


Oh yes! Theatre makes you go from one adventure to another. It allows me to dive into subjects and themes, crafting materials in relation to music and collaborating with strong and passionate personalities. All this is absolutely extraordinary, exciting and never ending. This is the field I love evolving in. Giving flesh to music, giving music to bodies (my company and performing arts laboratory stands for “Theatre for the ears, music for the eyes”).

"My wish would be that the audience feel the whirlwind and the vertigo of these actors-sprinters just before running a race!"

How much has your style and the approach to your theatre changed since your debut show In The Woods One Evening (1994)?


The hybrid atmosphere might be similar (working on human drama and failure inside of a certain musical sphere whether it is classical or new music, baroque or techno music…). But False Start is a new adventure, it speaks to that one moment of breathing, of pressure, of greatness and stress, torment and trance just before getting into the starting blocks. Imagine you invested all your life for this moment, for these seconds. What is the build up like to these minutes that can be sometimes eternal, sometimes terribly quick? Working on this strange relation to time was challenging.


Four performers put themselves in the shoes of sprinters, suggesting their relentless preparation for the race. Faced with the Promethean dream and the idolisation of victory – with its notions of competition, speed, performance and success whatever the cost that are so representative of our age the project explores our relationship with failure and the impulse to transcend ourselves. It probes the vulnerability and frailty at the root of humanity as much as the forces of perfection.

When creating new theatre how important is the collaborative nature to you and how much do these collaborations help to drive your creativity?


The collaborations, the human and collective work, is absolutely essential. I imagine the “playing rules” and a starting point, a frame. Then, it is a collective work with the performers, the collaborators, the sound and light creators and production team. Each participant gives something from his or her personality and makes the work go in a certain direction. I like the idea of an irreplaceable team, it gives to each project a personality because of how the team is composed.


Theatre is a collective platform where we share our competences, work and ideas. Also and specially with the audience.


Is there any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer theatre makers?


I have absolutely no tips or suggestions to make. On the contrary, I am curious to discover different worlds, different ways of imagining and offering theatre. I love being surprised by others, other logics, other ways of creating, sensing, constructing.


And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from False Start?


False Start questions society’s obsession with speed, success, the cult of the body (high-performance body, body-machine, fantasy body) and of performance. It questions the race or battle against time, competition, our dreams of flight, of surpassing or transcending ourselves, and the difficulty of doing so within the limits of our bodies and our desire, and thus our possible downfalls and relationship with failure.


I would like to take the audience on an intense journey. My wish would be that the audience feel the whirlwind and the vertigo of these actors-sprinters just before running a race! That they feel the stress but also the drive, the pressure but also the assurance.


We all want to be there somehow:  going beyond our limits to discover ourselves.

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