There was something strangely appropriate about seeing The Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner (#LDR2012) on the day that Andrew Mitchell resigned (for possibly calling a policeman a pleb) and George Osborne got into muurky water over a train ticket (for possibly not wanting to sit with the plebs). ‘We’re being dragged into oblivion’ screams the well meaning Stevens in the play ‘ by a series of public school wankerss and their pride’.
#LDR2012 – as director @marcusromer notes – is a story of class and the criminal justice system here brought chillingly (and as the trailers suggest faithfully) into the 21st Century by Roy Williams adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’ s short story (filmed in 1962).
Whilst in the real world a Leeds fan punches Sheffield United keeper Chris Kirkland Colin (pronounced dangerously like Coleen)battles to articulate himself against a backdrop of poverty, grief and unemployment. He finds solace and purpose in running where his advice is ‘don’t ever be in a hurry’.
On stage it is a curious (a good word in Suffolk these days) mix of Grange Hill and Hamlet dominated by a central performance which is as impressive for its stamina as its ability to capture the rage and internal dilemmas of Colin (Elliot Barnes-Worrell). The rest of the ensemble cast (10 in all) feel somewhat shadier – quite literally appearing for much of the time behind screens which both effectively suggests the voices in Colin’s mind and the separations within society and of the criminal justice system but also serves to separate us from their stories and I found myself struggling to connect or empathise with them.
For me what the production does is capture a central dilemma. Towards the beginning David Cameron’s disembodied voice and pixelated face is heard preaching the gospel of the big society. As the play builds to a climax Colin finds an answer which is all about him and him alone. As the TUC march descends on London determined to find new solutions whilst (as #intfest showed @dartingtonhall last weekend) thinkers are pointing to solutions which require us to act collectively #LDR2012 reminds you abruptly that for many the survival of the fittest appears the only way. We may be hard wired to be ‘kind’ to others but 21st century life is doing its level best to unwire us.
Who do you think I’m doing this for? asks Stevens. Not for me thats for sure replies Colin.