Let’s get things straight: I am no good at art critique. The lessons I hated most about art history were the ones where we had to critique a single painting over pages and pages of text. After all, who am I to voice my opinion on something so personal, created with so much guts and emotion, in circumstances no one would possibly understand as viscerally as the artist? Scarred for life by the exercise, my only ever critique about a piece of art is whether I like it or not. On this note, I can say loud and clear that I was moved to tears by ‘Can You Hear Me Running?’, the excellent play that’s just opened in London at the intimate Pleasance Theatre.
In the play, we follow Louise Breckon-Richards telling her own story of losing her voice and finding solace in running. An actress and singer, the mum-of-two is struggling with the enforced silence in the weeks of voice rest she’s prescribed – a restriction of personal expression that doesn’t sit well with her outgoing personality. Skillfully leaping back and forth between childhood anecdotes, teenage dreams and present tense, Louise takes us on an emotional ride through loss of purpose, hopelessness and endorphin-fuelled, exhilarating runs.
But this is much more than a one-woman show: thanks to a very powerful script written by the talented Jo Harper, Louise lends her voice to various healers and therapists, all seemingly powerless to help. The story is also underpinned by Louise’s love for music, with a live pianist (the excellent Dan Glover) playing the tunes of her life, from her granddad’s favourite hymns to her nineties running playlist, via classical waltz and Abba.
Supported by a simple but rich multimedia experience, the clever scenography leads us alongside Louise through the streets of London in her long runs, all the way to the painful last miles of the London Marathon. Projections take us through four seasons and a few decades of life, with diary excerpts and anecdotes from fellow runners adding to the context of running as a universal healing experience. As an anonymous voice puts it: “I first started running because it was free – but then I realised it was freedom”.
‘Can You Hear Me Running?’ is at the Pleasance Theatre until October 23rd.
Photo credits to Graham Saville.
Two-for-one tickets for all performances during opening week (until Sunday 9th) and matinees of 13th and 20th October using code 241RUN at checkout.