Director: Laurence Dollander
Showing as part of the Wandsworth Fringe, Still is the project of theatre-maker and director, Laurence Dollander. With her upcoming work cancelled at the start of the pandemic, Dollander decided instead to create a film. Working with the film-making group at St. Mungo’s Recovery College, Dollander weaves together their camera footage and her face-to-face interviews with members of the Wandsworth community.
Dollander sets the tone early on, mixing documentary with fiction, as she introduces us to Rory (played by Lloyd Hutchinson). An out-of-work and homeless actor, Rory is currently staying with his friend, Noel. Dollander tells us she has based the character of Rory on someone who stayed at her friend’s house during lockdown. Hutchinson draws Rory as a melancholic character: not particularly successful pre-pandemic, tried teaching but didn’t take to it. The two strike a kinship. Dollander discusses her desire to get to grips with King Lear, but it always felt too large, too intimidating. Rory begins to recite lines, and they discuss the play. The nihilistic quality of King Lear is intercut with Dollander and her crew trying to figure out the new, complex and contradictory rules of social distancing. There is a sense of the ludicrous, placed against the enormous tragedy happening around them, which feels very authentic.
The middle segment of the film is where Still really comes to life. We rejoin Rory with his friend, Noel (played by Pearce Quigley). Sitting outside the house (as rules dictate), the men chat amiably with Dollander. The conversation tails off into Noel’s observations about his neighbours – he’s asked them if they want to be interviewed by Dollander. The minutiae observed by Noel – his neighbours’ jobs, nationalities, the name of a new baby – nothing escapes him. Dollander nudges us into the realisation that this is the entertainment people made for themselves during the early part of the pandemic. Small gossip is Noel’s big event – as he makes Dollander and Rory try to guess the new baby’s name, the pay-off hilariously falls flat.
While Still deals in a myriad of images, overlapping sounds – creating a connection to place and belonging – the thread that should be puling us through the narrative doesn’t quite emerge. There is too much trying to grab our attention (and it is safe to assume this is Dollander’s wider point), but it works against the ideas being explored in the film: the exploration of Lear, Rory’s aimlessness, the background of a Wandsworth pulsating with energy.
At a running time of 28 minutes, Still is a glimpse into what could potentially be a bigger, more coherent work. But at the project’s centre is the footage from the St. Mungo’s film-makers. A true record of life during the pandemic, we see a huddle of pedestrians waiting for traffic lights to turn green; people sat on park benches, clearly lost in their own thoughts. On these terms, the film definitely succeeds. It’s a fascinating perspective on lockdown: a picture of Wandsworth, never quite perfectly still.
Available here until 11 July 202