Tether, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Mark is an aspiring Olympian who just isn’t good enough to make Team GB’s marathon team. Becky is a completely blind marathon runner who needs a guide when she runs. Tether isn’t about running, though. Two deeply flawed individuals find themselves in an unusual relationship where they must navigate clashing aspirations, inherent selfishness and potholes.

Playwright Isley Lynn’s script is some of the best new writing I’ve seen in a long time. The characters are intricately detailed and exquisitely sculpted with enough contrasting goals to create natural dramatic conflict without excess. Using Mark’s girlfriend and Becky’s running club mate as a point of reference in their conversation prevents the play from becoming just about Mark and Becky, placing it in the real world even though we only ever see the two of them. The story’s dramatic arc is textbook, but hugely effective with a satisfying resolution. My only issue is the length – this play simply must be lengthened so the story can be continued. I was so engrossed that the abrupt ending was frustrating.

Lee Drage’s and Maisie Greenwood’s performances are similarly excellent; the characters are a gift for any performer. Considering they are actually running for a large part of the play, their endurance is admirable. Both embark on a journey of softening and discovery: Mark realises how selfish he is; Becky gradually drops her prickly guard and is able to trust Mark. The massive argument they barrel towards is a necessary and inevitable wake up call for both of them. Also commendable is casting visually impaired Greenwood as Becky. Director Bethany Pitts uses simple but effective staging and the clever use of harnesses allows for a realistic run and an obvious metaphor.

This is an unmissable new play from a Royal Court graduate that offers insight into a world rarely considered before the London Paralympics 2012. It is a great step towards increasing the visibility of disabled performers and deserves further attention beyond Edinburgh Fringe.

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