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Treadmills, shiny lycra and 42 kilometres; one man’s quest to bring the community together

The epic Fun Run by Melbourne participatory arts and dance company All The Queens Men, will see artist Tristan Meecham run 42 kilometres on a treadmill.

His performance is a homage to the Greek messenger Pheidippides, who was sent to Athens to announce the Persians’ defeat in the battle of Marathon. He ran the entire distance without stopping, delivered the news and then dropped dead on arrival.
 
But Fun Run is not just a homage to Pheidippides, it is a performance spectacle that pushes one man to the limits of his endurance. Artist Tristan Meecham runs the demanding 42 kilometres on a treadmill supported by hundreds of performers and athletes.
 
While Fun Run is an endurance test for Meecham, the show is also about collaborating with the community. “We’re hoping to provide a space where people are really coming together in an inclusive way despite differences,” he says. “We’ve had the great privilege of being able to engage with people from a huge cross section of the community with really diverse representation in each place that we go and collaborate in.
 
“We’re really trying to create artistic frameworks for these community groups to allow them to do what they need to and have a cultural context in which people can feel like their voices have been heard.”
 
Every five minutes throughout the five-hour run, more than 430 participants from 25 community groups will hit the stage alongside Meecham. “There is so much work and content that will be on display. You can stay for the whole show and get five hours of adrenaline filled entertainment, or you can come and go throughout the time and you will get a different perspective and element of the show,” Meecham says.
 
The community groups range from boxing champions to Indian cultural dancers to Chinese drummers and body builders. While there are proficient performers in the event, there are also those who have never performed on stage before. “For the last couple of months Circus Oz has gone out to a number of primary schools. They work with young kids – some of them newly-arrived immigrants – to teach them dance and circus skills and we’re so thrilled that these groups will be performing for the first time on the main stage.”
 
The original performance of Fun Run was in Melbourne in 2010. It has been performed all around Australia and in Asia and Europe since. While Meecham has done this before, presenting the work is still very important to him. “Because it’s always a new and fresh performance, we imagine it’s one we won’t tire of simply because we’re meeting new people and collaborating with different community groups.
 
“We bring in a completely new way of approaching the work and interpreting the work as well.”
 
Meecham notes that while he’s certainly not a marathon runner, drawing energy from the hundreds of athletes, performers and audience is one of the best feelings he’s ever felt. “The collective feeling where everyone wants to try and build me through the marathon is really felt in the audience. If I was really skilled and proficient in the task, I'm not sure there would be a real audience feel to see if we can journey through this together.”
 
Fun Run is part of the Betty Amsden Participation Program, a creative program supported by a $1 million donation, which celebrates the creativity in all of us. The event is supported by Vic Health and is run in association with Circus Oz.
 
By Katerina Paltoglou 

Fun Run will take place at the Theatres Building Forecourt on Sunday March 12.