Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner the play, 2012

Not the play of the blog (what would that be like, I wonder?) but the short story that inspired its title.

I went to see the latest version of the Alan Sillitoe classic from his first collection, which has recently been adapted for the stage and was on at the Nottingham Playhouse. The playwright, Roy Williams, has brought the story bang up to date. It's set in London and the main character is still Colin but this time, Co-lin (like Powell) is black. The play encapsulates the riots, soundbites from David Cameron, the crackdown on petty crime and brings the story bang up to date. As with so much of what Sillitoe wrote, the issues he explpres feel just as relevant today as they ever were.

The production was very ambitious. This is the second performance I've been to recently at the Playhouse and I'm impressed with the way they are using new technology, particularly projection, to enhance the action on stage. It works really well. The set was fantastic, with huge screen as the back drop, and a working treadmill. Actors worked like memories behind the screen then joined the foreground at key moments. The script too was incredibly well written, managing to remain true to the original and yet become its own thing.

One minor gripe was that an electrical fault caused problems with the sound of the treadmill from time to time, but this seemed to be sorted out later in the evening. There was also no interval, which made it a long time to sit and watch, although I could see the sense of that because of the nature of the story.

The acting was great throughout, so good that I found myself getting lost in the characters and forgetting they were not real, a feat I usually find very difficult in the contrived situation of a theatre. I was particularly impressed with the lead actor, though, Elliot Barnes-Worrell. Not only was his acting flawless but he had the added difficulty of spending half the play on the treadmill, properly running, as well as projecting his voice over the audience as he ran. It was a part that he would have needed to train for, as well as learn his lines and rehearse. He did brilliantly.

Overall, I really loved it. Alan Sillitoe mentioned more than once, when I saw him speak at events, that the long distance running was a metaphor for the life of a writer. (Which is another thing that inspired this blog.) I think I felt that more than ever at the end of this play and it felt very inspiring. Lots of good words about not letting other people carve out the path they want for you, going your own way. Sillitoe's story and themes were there throughout but, at the end, as Colin stood and told us to be sure to go our own way, and that you are the one person you can rely on, in the end, it was almost as if the man himself was back in the room with us.

There are more reviews online here  and here. And you can find out about the production at the Playhouse here.


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