To all intents and purposes nothing much happens in False Start. The performers, just as they would if they were athletes, prepare for their big moment for much longer than the split second it takes for their race to be over. They don’t talk to each other, they don’t interact with the audience, there is no big musical number, no comedy and no complex storyline and yet, the four perfomers in Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski’s production – Jeanne Dailler, Pierre Gervais, Ninon Pérez, Laurent Staudt – are utterly mesmerising. They captivate the audience with their repetitive, rhythmic movement and alongside the immersive soundtrack from Marc Appart create something it is impossible to stop watching.
Part of the Belgian showing at this year’s Fringe, False Start explores the human need for speed, success and glory while pushing the body to its limits. This is shown particularly well in one sequence where a drill is repeated over and over again in practice as the coaches cajole and push the ‘sprinter’ until he is at breaking point. This is what is necessary to succeed.
But sport is cruel and in the end, as the title suggests, that one shot at glory can be taken away in an instant if the body, adrenaline coursing through it, dares to move just a fraction of a second too early. A false start. Immediate disqualification. And so the training begins again.
It is a carefully choreographed piece of physical theatre focussing on the repeated sequences sprinters take to prepare for their ten seconds on the track: the warm-up, the pre-race prep, the taking your marks, even the nervous tics many athletes have which are necessary for them to get ready (think Rafa Nadal before he takes his tennis serve). All are meticulously planned out and the result is a show which has you on the edge of your seat as it builds to its crescendo – who will make the false start?