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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Review

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Birmingham Rep

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Birmingham Rep

AT just five nights, this play didn’t get a long run in Brum - but it certainly covered a lot of ground. So too, as it happens, did the leading man.

Reviving Alan Sillitoe’s short story for the 21st century, this is the tale of a troubled teenager who finds solace in running

Elliot Barnes-Worrell is pitch-perfect as Colin, whose athletic ability is spotted by staff at the young offenders’ institute.

His promise gives him privileges - the chance to train outdoors and ultimately enter a race against the cream of the county’s public schools.

As he charges across the countryside, we flashback to the events that led him to petty crime and consider where he’s heading in life - other than the finish line.

Barnes-Worrell is surprisingly sympathetic as the title character and more than meets the physical demands of the role.

He delivers powerful speeches while pounding a treadmill and then shifts into the flashback scenes barely out of breath.

What’s particularly pleasing about the production is that it updates the story for 2012, while staying faithful to the themes of the original story.

This version is riddled with references to last summer’s riots and the lack of employment prospects for young people.

But far from being distracting, the mentions of tweeting and speeches by David Cameron ensures the play remains a powerful portrayal of disaffection. Absolutely brilliant.

DAVID IRWIN

 

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