Run is a piece of deep emotional and cosmic brilliance, collided with supernovic poetry and theatre: an interstellar achievement.
Yonni is a young Jewish boy living in North London, and he’s fallen in love. Run charts his life and his relationship through broken memories – some true, some untrue – combining science and poetry with religion, identity, family, antisemitism, beached whales, and first love.
The main thing that really hits you about Stephen Laughton’s Run is about as fresh the language and the poetry is. Urban, young, and unapologetic, Laughton’s text bounces through in a poetry-slam style with little rhymes, alliterations, and rhythmic passages that quietly grab you without realsing it, making Run more than just a monologue. Through this burgeoning and exciting style, Laughton really draws you into the energy and electric minutia of a teenager on the cusp of adulthood and one in love at that, with detail both literal and beguilingly abstract.
Aside from the poetic devices, there’s also a lot of device nuances that gives away that Run is structurally as deep and thought out in its exploration of Yonni’s memories and psyche. It’s fractured time-line might be a bit disorientating at first, but you soon realise it’s a very deliberately a way of bringing the audience face to face with Yonni’s troubled and fevered mind. Little things like the application of the word “stop” are vital and effective in sweeping up the audience into the very maelstrom that is Yonni and are keys to unlocking Run as a play. Imagery and subjects are important and impactful too, from assisting beached whales to discussing astrophysics, each form strange but compelling symbiosis and/or juxtapositions that are enchanting. Everything eventually comes together and makes sense – order from compelling chaos – to create an absolutely heart-crushing climax. Like a prayer sung in another language, Run hauntingly sings with something eerily beautiful and vastly human. Even if you can’t grasp its detail, you get swept up in its enchanting melody.
There are some moments that can be cut from Run that merely put a touch of extra background rather than develop the story, therefore making them technically unnecessary. Coming in at over an hour long, its already a challenge to keep the audience engaged with only a solo performance for company. But there’s so much of Run that is completely reliant on an other part, any chopping of what could go would make little difference, as Laughton’s language and fervour keeps you hooked regardless, even through the extra passages.
Run is an astonishing achievement in new writing. There have been only a few times where I’ve had to “walk off” a piece of theatre as it affected me so much, but this is absolutely one of them. Powerful, dizzying, and astronomic, it’s a masterful tale of growing up, falling in love, and loss in a time of turmoil.
Direction & Production
Director Oli Rose and production company Rogue’s Gallery Theatre Company may look like they’re pretty hands-off with very basic staging and lighting and an emphasis on the actor’s performance, but looks can be deceiving. Rose’s direction is surprisingly meticulous in how they propel Laughton’s words and Yonni’s world. There is a lot of exuberant and kalidescopic movement direction that adds a dancing visual complement to Laughton’s lucid and luscious text that really sparks a theatrical fuse. Then there’s other things like very sparing use of props and projection that adds a little variation only where needed to more deeply explore Run’s text and stoke an emotion and empathy from the audience rather than going for just looks.
Elsewhere, sound, original music by Helen Sartory, and lighting is seemingly straightforward but is deliberate enough to quietly augment Run and pilot your attention and feeling without ever being distracting.
Up and coming Tom Ross-Williams is an unstoppable force in Run, embodying a youthful and electric energy that ricochets around the auditorium. Ross-Williams has a spitting, tripping, and dexterous hold over Laughton’s language and delivers it in loquacious and liquid torrents. But what’s utterly fantastic about Ross-William’s performance is just effortlessly they tap into Yonni’s anxieties and emotions. You can almost taste any feeling Ross-Williams exudes, often to the point that you’re left figuratively winded by their performance. You exit the auditorium feeling you’re taking with you an intimate part of Yonni’s character, all down to witnessing Ross-William’s absolutely dazzling presence and ability.
Run is an intoxicating sprint from start to finish. Ecstatic new writing, deep production, and an out of this world performance will leave you gasping through your tears.
Run played as part of the Vault Festival, London, between 10 – 14 February 2016. For more information about the festival visit www.vaultfestival.com. For more information about the play, visit run-theplay.net.