Pilot Theatre 14 Sep – 24 Nov 2012
York Theatre Royal 14 – 29 Sep 2012
Birmingham Rep 2-‐6 Oct
Gala, Durham 9 – 13 Oct
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich 16 -‐ 20 Oct
One Suffolk The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner http://www.onesuffolk.net/home/previews-and-reviews/reviews/the-loneliness-of-the-longdistance-runner/ By Rachel Sloane. Published 18 October 2012
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner at The New Wolsey Theatre. They were the sort of conversations you’d hear on any street corner where teenagers congregate. A mixture of jostling, bravado, flirting, a bit of swearing and plenty of “Innits”, and expressions like “it’s sick, man”. This play was an adaptation and updating, by Roy William, of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner , a short story about class and criminal justice system , by Alan Sillitoe. Watching, the dialogue, costumes and attitudes were so realistic, you forgot this was a theatre and that it was young actors performing a script on a stage. It is 2012, and the runner of the title, Colin Smith (played by Elliot Barnes-Worrell) is in a Young Offenders Institute after stealing a cash box from Greggs, the bakery boarded up after the London riots. The story of Colin’s life, the death of his father, his mother’s new boyfriend, his friends, and his crime, are told in flashback, interspersed with life lived under the threat of violence in the Institute. His passion for running is spotted and encouraged by his despised mentor/coach, Stevens, (Dominic Gately), who persuades the authorities to let Colin run alone in the grounds, training to represent the Institute in a long-distance race. Does Stevens really have Colin’s best interests at heart or is he only anxious to win a political point, as the local private school is also competing? This new play came to Ipswich from Pilot Theatre, working with the York Theatre Royal. Pilot work with young actors developing new talent, and they also run education workshops in schools and provide teaching packs for their productions. This was an all-round strong cast but a special mention must go to Elliot Barnes-Worrell who must be the fittest actor around! The ingenious set comprised of projections onto a gauze screen which, when lit, revealed the characters in Colin’s past. In the foreground, set into the stage, was a moving treadmill where, as he told his story, he ran… and ran.. and ran. (And never seemed out of breath). Colin eventually takes control the race, and his life, in front of the crowds cheering him on, because, as he said, “I don’t race, I run.”
It was pleasing to see the New Wolsey Theatre almost full of teenagers, as several school parties were attending. Even if they hadn’t personally faced the life challenges that Colin had, they obviously empathised and understood his situation… and we older audience members learnt a little of what life is like for an inner city London kid. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner at The New Wolsey Theatre. They were the sort of conversations you’d hear on any street corner where teenagers congregate. A mixture of jostling, bravado, flirting, a bit of swearing and plenty of “Innits”, and expressions like “it’s sick, man”. This play was an adaptation and updating, by Roy William, of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner , a short story about class and criminal justice system , by Alan Sillitoe. Watching, the dialogue, costumes and attitudes were so realistic, you forgot this was a theatre and that it was young actors performing a script on a stage. It is 2012, and the runner of the title, Colin Smith (played by Elliot Barnes-Worrell) is in a Young Offenders Institute after stealing a cash box from Greggs, the bakery boarded up after the London riots. The story of Colin’s life, the death of his father, his mother’s new boyfriend, his friends, and his crime, are told in flashback, interspersed with life lived under the threat of violence in the Institute. His passion for running is spotted and encouraged by his despised mentor/coach, Stevens, (Dominic Gately), who persuades the authorities to let Colin run alone in the grounds, training to represent the Institute in a long-distance race. Does Stevens really have Colin’s best interests at heart or is he only anxious to win a political point, as the local private school is also competing? This new play came to Ipswich from Pilot Theatre, working with the York Theatre Royal. Pilot work with young actors developing new talent, and they also run education workshops in schools and provide teaching packs for their productions. This was an all-round strong cast but a special mention must go to Elliot Barnes-Worrell who must be the fittest actor around! The ingenious set comprised of projections onto a gauze screen which, when lit, revealed the characters in Colin’s past. In the foreground, set into the stage, was a moving treadmill where, as he told his story, he ran… and ran.. and ran. (And never seemed out of breath). Colin eventually takes control the race, and his life, in front of the crowds cheering him on, because, as he said, “I don’t race, I run.” It was pleasing to see the New Wolsey Theatre almost full of teenagers, as several school parties were attending. Even if they hadn’t personally faced the life challenges that Colin had, they obviously empathised and understood his situation… and we older audience members learnt a little of what life is like for an inner city London kid.
Nottingham Playhouse 23 -‐ 27 Oct
Liverpool Playhouse 30 Oct -‐ 3 Nov
Click Liverpool Review: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Liverpool Playhouse http://www.clickliverpool.com/culture/reviews/1217564-‐review-‐the-‐loneliness-‐of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐ runner,-‐liverpool-‐playhouse.html#SGZHKgGYT3RtyDKt.99 By Toni Garden. Published Wed 31 Oct 2012 12:59 Pounding the stage on a cleverly concealed treadmill for almost 90 minutes is a feat in itself, but young lead performer Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell had a bigger competitor than stamina to contend with in a modernised script adaptation that left the audience desperate to see the finish line. Adapted for stage by Roy Williams from Alan Stiltoe’s 1959 kitchen sink drama, the loneliness of the long distance runner is the tale of Colin Smith (pronounced cO-‐lin by his 21st century brothers on the street), the conflicted 17 year-‐old sent down for petty theft in the aftermath of London’s tottenham riots. The modern young offenders institute plays as one of the main set images skillfully projected onto an opaque framework designed by Lydia Denno, providing an interactive stage and a looking glass into the inner workings of Colin’s mind. In the modern rehabilitating prison, a natural talent for running is seen in Colin by a prison warden as the key to his redemption and encourages him to compete in a prison initiative but the reluctant youth wants nothing of redemption and uses his time spent running alone to push his limits and question his morality. The troubled young man of Stiltoe’s original character remains and thanks to the beauty that is human nature, will always be relevant but the adapted contemporary background noise of Cameron’s “Big Society” and nuanced politics seem to overcrowd the script and its quintessential struggle of youth. William’s version harks back to the youth culture Stiltoe originally meant for this piece but injects the street slang and up-‐to date dialogue that seems socially aware of today’s youth. But while it might feel like a refreshing change to the theatre darlings, 20-‐something ears were left cringing at the generalised teeth sucking representation of their generation. The added remarks on today’s social breakdown only work to lose our hero to a series of flashbacks slowing down the pace to his resolution. The loneliness of the long distance runner pounds into 2012 with a promising performance from its lead, but its pace leaves audiences longing for a streamlined sprint to resolution as apposed to this marathon drama. 6/10
Liverpool Sound and Vision The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, Theatre Review. Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool. By Ian D. Hall. Published on October 30, 2012 Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * Cast: Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell, Doreene Blackstock, Curtis Cole, Dominic Gately, Savannah Gordon-‐Liburd, Luke James, Jack McMullen, Richard Pepple, Alix Ross, Sean Sagar. Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was written in the dying days of National Service in Great Britain; this coupled with the thought of young offenders’ prisons which became a one-‐ stop shop for hope being abandoned may have been on a lot of people’s minds when the national riots of 2011 scarred and divided the nation. What to do with the young that took part in them provided much debate in every home throughout the country, no matter what was the final punishment; it was either not enough or too much depending on your point of view. Roy Williams’ stage adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s work brings the classic look at the system that locked young offenders away and drops it smack into the middle of the biggest riots seen in Britain for a generation. The tension between two differing points of view is highlighted by the conflict that Colin Smith, portrayed by the superb Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell and all that stands between him and the freedom he craves is stifling, somehow unbearably so as he sees his world descend into bitterness and anger. The causes of such destruction in a young person’s life are probably never really explained until it’s too late to change their life. Colin on the other hand is able to find some salvation from the streets and authority that he finds on both sides of his life. To be confident enough to hold the attention of an entire audience whilst performing the simulation of long distance running via a treadmill is nothing short of awe-‐inspiring. Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell somehow gave his all, and then some more in a part that he shone outstandingly in. Alongside Mr. Barnes-‐Worrell was a cast that made the production come alive in such a way that may have been lost in another time and with less well versed cast who were able to convey the dangers of conforming to either side and not being your own person. The confrontation between Colin and his recently widowed mother, played with great appeal by Doreene Blackstock on one hand and the guard allegedly on his side convincing him to run were scenes of utter suffering but with the knowledge this was a man who would survive anything by being honest to himself. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner should be required viewing by all. It leaves you breathless.
The Public Reviews The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – The Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-‐loneliness-‐of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐runner-‐the-‐playhouse-‐theatre-‐ liverpool/ By Jamie Gaskin. Published 31 October 2012 The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½ Loneliness is generally regarded as a curse – but for one person it is his one chance to be free. He is the eponymous long distance runner from Alan Sillitoe’s celebrated novel filmed in the early 60s with Tom Courtney as Colin Smith. Here playwright Roy Williams brings the story bang up to date, setting it at the time of last year’s riots and making his anti-‐hero black. Elliott Barnes-‐Worrell gives a very physical performance: Rarely still in this 80-‐minute straight-‐through production. Yet his delivery is not impaired by the exertions – a harder trick than it looks. Throughout he maintained a compelling presence without overacting. But is Colin running towards new goals or just trying to distance himself from his pathetic past? The tormented memories of watching his father (Richard Pepple) suffer a painful death neglected by his wayward mother (Doreene Blackstock) who is so quick to find a new boyfriend and even quicker to squander their modest inheritance. Pepple’s sensitive portrayal underscores the delicious upbeat callousness exuded by the flouncing Blackstock. Or are Colin’s early morning runs as much a way of blowing away the cynical set-‐up he is sucked into at The Young offenders Institute. As a favoured inmate he is mocked and tormented by his fellows and suffers a creepy condescension from do-‐gooder Stevens (Dominic Gately). A wonderful display of how to be patronising. There’s more than a hint of mischievous irony when an uncharacteristic outburst from Stevens reveals that he is using Colin as a weapon in his own class war. It was amusing to see that the path of romance and chat-‐up techniques was as difficult yet tender anyone could recall. Kenisha (Savannah Gordon-‐Liburd) coping well with the embarrassed difficulties of the man she fancies. Williams has crafted a middle-‐distance rather than full-‐length play creating fireworks but always balancing with a more reflective mood. But it works well on the stage because it is very much a director’s play. Marcus Romer and the set designer Lydia Denno were highly successful in filling the majesty of the barn-‐like stage of the Playhouse without compromising on the intimacy and very personal nature of Colin’s fears and how he succeeds. The overwhelming size of the set compared with Colin is almost a metaphor for the task he faces in the narrative. All in all, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a touring play which will certainly go the distance.
Sevenstreets Review: The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner http://www.sevenstreets.com/performance-‐and-‐film/review-‐the-‐loneliness-‐of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐ runner/ By Robin Brown. Published 31 October 2012 This update on Sillitoe's classic has much to commend it but seems as confused as its protagonist at the finish line. Updating Alan Sillitoe’s classic Angry Young Man short story to a modern setting of London gangs, atavistic youths and David Cameron’s moral crusade in response to 2011ʹ′s rioting seems, on the face of it, a no-‐brainer. The classic story of a borstal boy rebelling against authority the only way he can, through his love of running, represents the young generation’s frustration with – and anger towards – authority as well as any Wild One or Easy Rider. Things are off to a good start with a striking set centred around a running machine that sees Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell as protagonist Colin Smith run over five kilometres during the night. It’s no mean feat to run and talk, let alone deliver a performance a strong as the one seen here. There’s strong support, particularly form Doreen Blackstock and Richard Pepple as Colin’s parents, and Dominic Gately convinces as Home Office man Stevens. But where the original short story and film reflected a coming shift in attitudes towards class and authority, it’s not clear what we’re supposed to makes of Colin’s antagonism towards Stevens, a kind of right-‐on liberal archetype who isn’t especially believable, beyond the minds of Daily Mail readers. Amongst a difficult domestic background, Colin’s staunchly socialist father, the 2011 riots, his materialistic mates and the general angst of adolescence it’s never really clear what Colin believes in, what he’s railing against or why he takes his stance against the admittedly irritating Stevens. The updating of the story occasionally feels rather heavy-‐handed – and the addition of the Prime Minister’s voice to punctate proceedings seems rather laboured. Roy Williams’ new adaptation seems determined to spell out some of the points of Sillitoe’s story, but the end result seems confusing; the audience as unclear as to what point is being made as Colin seems over what drives him to commit his act of rebellion – and to whom he’s thumbing his nose. The end result is of a strong production, but a confused narrative that never quite manages to chase down the point it’s searching for.
Liverpool Echo Theatre Review: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Liverpool Playhouse http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-‐entertainment/echo-‐entertainment/2012/10/31/theatre-‐ review-‐the-‐loneliness-‐of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐runner-‐liverpool-‐playhouse-‐100252-‐ 32133125/#ixzz2CxqcwJEq Published on 31 Oct 2012 8/10 Stays the distance ALAN Sillitoe, along with fellow 1950s writers like John Osborne and John Braine, were quick to eschew the moniker ‘angry young men’ bestowed on them. But their creations, particularly Sillitoe’s ‘anti-‐heroes’ Colin Smith and Arthur Seaton, and Osborne’s Jimmy Porter, personified the frustrations of the disaffected youth struggling with the socio-‐ economic realities of a post-‐war, pre-‐Swinging Sixties Britain. While Look Back in Anger and, to a lesser extent, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, now look rather like period pieces, Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (as told here in a new adaptation for Pilot Theatre by Roy Williams) has proved to have the stamina to survive not only half a century but still have a realistic resonance in 2012. Placing the story in the here and now of Olympic year and in the long shadow of the 2011 riots could have easily been a dramatic conceit too far. But Williams shows a deft hand, bending Sillitoe’s original only slightly to create his contemporary tale while at the same time avoiding becoming too preachy. To succeed, however, it needs to be anchored by a strong central performance, and Elliot Barnes-‐ Worrell is terrific as the articulate but unfocused Colin who finds an escape from the bleakness of his life – the death of his cherished father, clashes with his mum’s new boyfriend, recklessly courting trouble with feckless best mate Jase (Jack McMullen) leading to a spell in a Young Offenders Institute – through the eponymous solo sport. The young actor is fresh out of drama college and Runner is only his second professional stage gig. Happily he’s also a long distance runner in real life, pacing out with ease around 4km per performance on a built-‐in treadmill at the centre of designers Lydia Denno and Mark Beasley’s multi-‐media set while delivering his lines with a similar rhythmic quality. There’s a realistic feel to Williams’ dialogue and some strong supporting performances. The action happens in ‘real time’ during the course of Colin’s big race, and director Marcus Romer keeps things ticking along by juxtaposing Colin’s solo musings with engaging (and often surprisingly amusing)
interaction between his protagonist and the people who populate his life, from the Young Offenders heavies to girlfriend Kenisha to Dominic Gately’s (tor)mentor Stevens . Website Comment: By DS. 9:04 PM on 31/10/2012 An uplifting, inspiring production. Mesmerising acting. A sign that the Playhouse might preserve the Everyman's reputation for creativity and challenging thought.
WhatsOnStage.com The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tour -‐ Liverpool) http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/theatre/northwest/E8831351686068/The+Loneliness+of+the+Lo ng+Distance+Runner+(Tour+-‐+Liverpool).html By Carole Baldock. Published 31 October 2012 WOS Rating: **** You know what they say about Fred Astaire; bet Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell could do all that too since he has no problem at all running and speaking out, and largely crystal clear diction. Not always the case however for this 1959 tale of Colin Smith, the fatherless young offender, literally racing for his life as he broods over his past and agonises about the future. Brought bang up to date, some of the dialogue is hard to follow but worse than that is the realisation how little things have changed. Except that riots were usually the result of frustration and despair, yet nowadays seem to be based more on greed. Cue Mrs Smith (Doreene Blackstock), addicted to retail therapy and the rapid replacement of her husband with boyfriend Trevor, both, remarkably, played by Richard Pepple. More of an influence on Colin is his canny girlfriend Kenisha (Savannah Gordon-‐LIburd); even more so, layabout best friend Jase (TV veteran and rising theatre ingénue Jack McMullen). But Colin also has to contend with being hounded by Luke, nasty and dim (Curtis Cole) and Sean Sagar as sidekick Asher; perhaps surprisingly bullying is deprived of its leading role and not shown to be the principal reason driving him on. Worse still, well-‐meaning but misguided mentor, Stevens, his complexities well portrayed by Dominc Gately. The background to the running track varies from urban landscape to countryside to domestic interior, all done with mirrors or rather, video, where the flashbacks take place, a clever idea though occasionally baffling. Nonetheless, you also know you are in good company when you learn from the Aftershow talk that Alan Sillitoe’s widow and son were thrilled with a production which veers from bleak to humorous whilst crackling with passion throughout.
Liverpool Daily Post THEATRE REVIEW: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Liverpool Playhouse http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-‐culture/liverpool-‐arts/2012/11/01/theatre-‐review-‐the-‐ loneliness-‐of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐runner-‐liverpool-‐playhouse-‐99623-‐32134045/#ixzz2CxsaWjUQ By Laura Davis, Liverpool Daily Post. Published 1 November 2012 YOU feel almost out of breath just watching Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell in Roy Williams’s reworking of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner but, despite him racing an estimated 4km per performance on a treadmill built into the stage, he barely breaks into a sweat. The secret to winning, he reveals at the outset, is to be fast but not to rush – which is exactly what this 21st century version of Alan Sillitoe’s 1959 short story succeeds in achieving. The fast-‐paced production transports likeable young delinquent Colin Smith to post-‐2011 riots London and in comparison makes the 1950s original seem rather quaint. Yet in a damning indictment of today’s society, both boys share the same problems. They feel angry, isolated and have trapped themselves into fighting a battle against an unseen establishment – a battle they do not really understand. While the politics, outline plot and some of the dialogue is Sillitoe’s, Williams has made the story belong to now. His adaptation is bold. He has not allowed himself to be chained to the original, yet by freeing himself from its constraints he has been able to be truer to it. It’s a slick production with a stylish set by Lydia Denno, who uses video projection to help tell Colin’s story in flashbacks during a race in which he is representing his young offenders institution. Aside from demonstrating physical stamina, and the ability to talk and gesticulate while running, Barnes-‐ Worrell makes a natural Colin – his cheekiness gradually slipping into frustration as he finds a way of taking a stand against his situation that will spite himself as much as those to whom he is sending a message. Sillitoe’s no nonsense borstal governor has been replaced by the well-‐meaning Stevens – played as a naive but genuinely caring character by Dominic Gately – who thinks word association tests and a friendly attitude will help him get through to the boys. Some of the points are a bit laboured – we don’t need to hear clip after clip of David Cameron banging on about rioters taking responsibility for their actions to question why the Government is shirking its own accountability for our country failing its young people – but Pilot Theatre’s production brings an
immediacy to Sillitoe’s work that shows how relevant it continues to be more than half a century after it was written.
Manchester Salon The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner http://www.manchestersalon.org.uk/the-‐loneliness-‐of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐runner.html By Jane Turner. Published November 2012 “You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again”. Alexander Solzhenitsyn In Alan Sillitoe’s classic story of freedom, Colin Smith the protagonist is a free man by this definition and chooses to make his own history but not in conditions of his own choosing. In doing so, he exercises his free will and demonstrates his resilience and determination. Elliott Barnes-‐Worrell as Colin Smith certainly goes the distance and delivers an adrenaline rush in more ways than one, in this compelling and brave adaptation in a contemporary setting, of an Alan Sillitoe classic. The adaptation is by BAFTA winning and Olivier Award nominated playwright Roy Williams OBE (Sucker Punch, Fallout, Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads). The play brings to life the biting realism that Sillitoe so vividly depicted in his 1959 novel and this production sets it in the present day. Barnes-‐Worrell, in his first professional performance, won me over with a superb, muscular and agitated performance, most of which is spent running on a treadmill, word-‐ perfect and never breathless. He emerges from several long running scenes, dives straight into flashback sets without breaking sweat. You can tell he is a long distance runner in real life – and he certainly runs away with the prize for the stand-‐out-‐performance! Sillitoe, a writer with emotional power and a soul rooted in the Nottingham working class community, originally wrote this as a short story in a larger collection. The tone in the book is bleak and typically defiant, angry and bitter with occasional relief from Sillitoe’s sardonic humour, whereas this new production is much more affable. It has previously been adapted for a film of the same title, with the part of Smith played by Tom Courtenay (1962), but this version, despite following the same structure as the book and having the same central character in Colin Smith, is a world apart from both the book and the 1962 film. Whereas Sillitoe gave a new voice to the angry, white working-‐class, in Williams’s version which seems to be set in the black community of south London, we hear the voice and patois of the post-‐riot black urban youth of today; “cops” become “feds” and there are lots of “ya get me’s” and “innits” and swaggering cheeky street slang thrown in. The youth wear their pants half way down their backsides and display a very different arrogance (as well as arse) to that of a 1950’s Colin Smith. They seem to be part of a protest about young people with no prospects, instead of in a tale depicting how one can personally
and defiantly handle oppression and imprisonment and gain a certain kind of freedom in a spectacular display of free will and a standoff with authority, which is how I interpreted the original story. The voice of David Cameron using the ubiquitous “L” word (legacy) and harping on about “justice” plays out from the television in the Smiths’ living room, and he sounds every bit as pompous and out-‐of-‐place and touch as he does whenever he speaks, with the gulf between “them and us” neatly illustrated. Despite one or two minor criticisms, as a fan of the writing in the original book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It works as a new story based on an original and is skilfully produced, artistically directed (Marcus Romer), creatively scripted without being too preachy. The set is visually stunning in its simplicity and cleverly uses semi-‐transparent screening that allows new voices and characters on stage whilst at the same time keeping them discretely in the background. It has vitality and spirit in buckets thanks to the energetic and talented cast. To begin with, I took to my seat in the packed-‐out Liverpool Playhouse Theatre with a very different Colin Smith in mind (as depicted in the book) – white, working class, pale-‐faced, long and skinny – a not very attractive, sly, mean-‐spirited and defiant petty criminal from an impoverished home. The Colin I saw before me on the stage was a rather different breed – good-‐looking, muscular, extremely fit, moody, witty, likeable, admirable even and depicted as having the potential to change and to “turn his life around” unlike Colin the original, who was set on a life of crime. Indeed “new Colin” was so attractive that he was wolf-‐whistled regularly! During the after-‐show discussion, the row of young girls behind me could not stop whispering about and openly hankering after him! You could see him blushing and shyly enjoying the exuberant applause, and well deserved too. I do think the original script is neglected somewhat, as Sillitoe’s writing is rich with Colin’s inner dialogue, whereas this adaptation was thinner on narrative in comparison. Despite being told in the after-‐show discussion that 80% of the script remains true to the book, I do have my doubts about that assertion. However, it is a great piece of theatre, which like the original raises many questions in its modern portrait of a disaffected generation whilst at the same time introducing and re-‐marketing Sillitoe’s 50-‐year-‐old story to a completely new and younger audience. The tale jogs along as rhythmically as the runner in the form of a first person monologue with Smith introducing themes of loneliness, alienation and self-‐determination. It focuses on Smith, a poor teenager from a miserable home in a blue-‐collar area, who has bleak prospects and few interests beyond petty crime and who turns to long-‐distance running as a way out of his situation, which provides him with both a physical and mental escape from his surroundings. He argues frequently with his mother (played with urban sassiness by Doreene Blackstock) who is always on at him to get a job, and yearns for his dead father (Richard Pepple, who also plays mums lover Trevor) and thus belongs to the archetypal single-‐parent-‐absent father family often held up as the root of all evil by espousers of traditional family values. The addition of a love-‐interest in the form of the gutsy and influential Kenisha (Savannah Gordon-‐Liburd) brings a new dimension to the story. She introduces the possibility of another way of doing things, a different way of escaping than a life of crime and the hope of a more positive and
modern ending to Smiths life, than that in the original story, where Smith develops pleurisy and continues on his one man crime spree. Some may see Smith as a working class hero standing up to the system, as he is certainly not one to follow the crowd or tug at his forelock. In this adaptation, we see him listening to and reflecting on the advice of his dead father who told him “everyone wants to be and no one wants to do” and who condemned the actions of the 2011 rioters in which the young Smith took no part. However, Smiths’ unrelenting attitude is as cold and frostbitten as the earth he pounds and alone with his thoughts, the question of why and for whom he runs springs to mind. In my opinion, Smith is hardly an admirable character and his anti-‐establishment stance serves only as a justification for his selfishness, criminality and distorted attitude to life. He never considers anyone but himself, sparing no thought to the victims of or the consequences of his crimes and in a scene with Stevens, the prison authority figure (played with a stern face by Dominic Gateley), where he demands of him “give us something new, you’re the grown-‐ups, fight for us” I think he displays many of the characteristics nurtured in modern day dependency culture. When caught on surveillance camera (none of those in 1950!) robbing Greggs (or these) the bakery with his friend Jase (a rather lively Jack McMullen), Smith is confined to a young offenders institution. Detained in bleak and restricted circumstances, and seeking solace in long-‐distance running, he attracts the attention of the authorities due to his physical prowess. Offered the prospect of early release if he wins an important race against a prominent public school, which would provide a prestigious boost to the establishment, Smith has an incentive to co-‐operate. But, on the day of the competition, he deliberately stops short of the finishing line to let the other runners pass him in a defiant and deliberate gesture of contempt aimed at the repressive forces of the corrupt establishment he despises, and at the same time demonstrating a surly defiance, his free spirit, free will and independence. Smith is not easy to like, and yet because of the way in which this story was written, the audience is able to find something positive about him, and about man’s indefatigable spirit in the face of oppression. You can thank Sillitoe for this as he manages to elicit compassion for a young and selfish petty criminal, bringing out his under the surface vulnerability, his sly humour and finding within him an admirable attitude and spirit, which is characteristic of time and place. He hates the establishment and anyone associated with it, he refuses to play by anyone’s rules and he takes pleasure in exercising his own free will. An imaginative production of a 50 year old story, with dynamic performances from the rather likeable cast of robbers and rogues. Barnes-‐Worrell might not be breathless at the end of it, but you just might be!
The Brewhouse, Taunton 7 -‐ 10 Nov
Theatre Royal Winchester 13 -‐ 17 Nov
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
21 -‐ 24 Nov
Huddersfield Daily Examiner Theatre: The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner comes to the LBT http://www.examiner.co.uk/leisure-‐and-‐entertainment/arts-‐news/2012/11/16/theatre-‐the-‐loneliness-‐ of-‐the-‐long-‐distance-‐runner-‐comes-‐to-‐the-‐lbt-‐86081-‐32241984/ By Val Javin,. Published 16 November 2012 IT IS a show that hits the ground running and for the lead actor, never stops. In his first theatre role since leaving drama school in the summer, Elliot Barnes-‐Worrell was perfect casting. This young actor who loves to run was exactly what director Marcus Romer had been looking for to play the central role in the iconic play, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner. “It’s Elliot’s first professional job since leaving the Central School of Speech and Drama,” said the show’s director, Marcus Romer. “He finished his training in July and he was working with us in August. He’s 21. He’s a trained actor and he’s a runner. We struck lucky at the casting.” “We are going to see a lot more of Elliot. “I am really excited about finding an actor with such talent who has risen to the challenge and done so extraordinarily well.” See Elliot at the Lawrence Batley Theatre next week as Colin Smith, the defiant young man in Alan Sillitoe’s classic Fifties’ story which is just as relevant today as it was then. In Sillitoe’s piece, updated by playwright Roy Williams in this stage version, to the aftermath of last year’s Tottenham riots in London, long distance running offers Smith a welcome distraction from the Young Offenders Institution to which he has been sent for looting. He is offered the prospect of early release if he wins in a cross-‐country competition against youngsters from a public school. It might seem an obvious incentive to cooperate but as Colin runs, we discover what his life was like before and what he hopes it might yet be. For many, the title of the piece conjures up images of Tony Richardson’s iconic film made in the Sixties and starring Tom Courtenay as Colin. But Sillitoe’s story remains a parable for today. In today’s unsettled times it will continue to resonate for many who see this co-‐production between award-‐winning Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal.
The production opens at the LBT on Wednesday and runs until Saturday. During each performance, Elliot will be on stage for the entire 90 minutes. He will spend it running about 3,000 metres – the same distance as an Olympic steeplechase race except he will be doing it on a specially constructed six metres long treadmill. “We run the race in real time. There’s no interval,” said Marcus. “At the end, Colin decides to throw the race. He has to make a choice. For him that’s a very empowering moment. “He let’s the posh boy from the public school win. He stands there and lets that happen. It is a moment of defiance and choice. “The impact of it is like Mo Farah getting to the line and not crossing it. It’s unthinkable.” “I think it is a very powerful piece which still has a lot to say,” said Marcus. For Elliot, who plays Colin, the role has had as many physical as well as emotional challenges. Fortunately, he is in to his sport. He practices thai kick boxing and used to run 10km once a week as part of the London urban running collective Run Dem Crew. Once he’d landed the part of Colin, he had to step up the mileage, training four times a week. You’ll see why he needed it. There are six performances at the LBT, four evening shows plus matinees on Thursday and Saturday. That means in four days of shows in Huddersfield, Elliot will clock up something like 18,000 metres on that treadmill. “My passion for running the streets was borne out of Run Dem Crew. It’s like a family and we aim to run hard, fast and strong but we leave no one behind,” said Elliot. “Then when I got the role of Colin I started running solo, just to get that loneliness feeling. “It’s really helped my understanding of his character, of how he’s thinking all the time, reliving every detail of what has gone before.’ Tickets can be booked via the theatre box office on 01484 430528 or online at www.thelbt.org.
Published on Jan 11, 2013
Published on Jan 11, 2013
Read all the coverage of our recent tour of Alan Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, adapted by Roy Williams