Can You Hear Me Running?, Pleasance Theatre

Louise is a successful actor and singer with numerous, impressive credits to her name, a gorgeous family, and a plenty of auditions. But when a cold turns out to be a sign of something worse, Louise is sent into an existential spin. Now looking back on this life changing encounter, Can You Hear Me Running? follows her journey through illness, diagnosis and recovery. This solo performance uses an episodic approach to document Louise’s journey, with a secondary thread of self-discovery by running. Gorgeous projections and a live piano score add layers to this intimate performance piece, but the two intertwining narratives are too loosely connected to have a truly moving impact.

It’s devastating when your body rebels against you to the point that you can no longer do what you love or trained to do. When Louise has to stop singing and is warned that she may never sing professionally again, performer and co-creator Louise Breckon-Richards captures this emotional abyss with perfect agony. As co-creator it is presumed this is an autobiographical work, but that in no way diminishes the uncontainable passion and energy clambering over a mountainous landscape of white boxes.

Designer Adrian Gee and projection designer Eve Auster work in tandem to treat the senses with rich visual accompaniment. We see Louise’s childhood in rural Wales, the streets and parks she runs in and her vocal folds in all their alien glory across the entire width and depth of the stagehands . As Louise embodies the various medical practitioners she meets along the way, we see their credentials spelt out in clinical precision, a good contrast to a world so beautiful it compels Louise to sing.

Though it’s clear that Louise eventually finds solace in running, it is never explained how she got to that point. A throwaway line that she hadn’t run since she was at school makes her sudden choice to do so disconnected from any motivation to escape her health issues. Whilst she can’t sing or speak, why run? Why not knit, or write, or garden or cook? The disconnect is so pronounced that her running journey is almost a totally separate play from the story of her health, making both storylines a bit patchy.

Despite this, Breckon-Richards and Jo Harper’s script has the bones of a lovely story full of hardship and hope. With further development and unifying the plot threads, it will be a very powerful piece indeed.

Can You Hear Me Running? runs through 23 October.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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Undead Bard, Theatre N16

robert-crighton-in-metal-harvest

Professor Ashborn is on a mission to disprove Shakespeare’s existence, but the academics with leather patches on their elbows are trying to stop him. Following Ashborn’s lecture and an interval, Undead Bard creator Robert Crighton summons Shakespeare to talk to him about his life, work and death in an unrelated second half. This two-part show on Shakespeare in the modern world, bardolatry and the authorship debate certainly has some very funny moments of satire, but others are utterly bizarre and the poor execution of an idea. A significantly stronger first act sets up a reasonably enjoyable event, but the second is self-indulgent and anti-climactic in this overly long solo performance.

The paranoid Professor Ashborn’s lecture rips the piss out of Shakespeare academics, those that believe Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s works, those that believe someone else did under Shakespeare’s name and anyone with a love for Shakespeare’s plays. Crighton as Ashborn talks the audience through his various ridiculous authorship theories with energy and eccentric humour, evoking plenty of laughs. The script follows a natural rhythm of discovery, disappointment and eventual confession; it’s a story carefully crafted with intuition and skill.

Considering the second act, the first would be better served as a stand-alone piece. After what is quite a good piece of character storytelling, this random, rambling seance on the mundanity of Shakespeare’s life and afterlife is, well, mundane. The inclusion of toilet humour and sexual innuendo do not improve the piece. Shakespeare’s confusion at his legacy is cute, but it absolutely doesn’t warrant nearly an hour of discourse and disconnected pop culture references.

Crighton clearly has an aptitude for crafting a story, as evidenced in the first part of the show. Unfortunately, the rest of it is a muddled letdown that needs to be sent back to the drawing board or discarded completely.

Undead Bard runs through 13 October.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.