Can You Hear Me Running? at the Pleasance Theatre
Louise Breckon-Richards stars in the one-woman show Can You Hear Me Running?, where she narrates her personal story of how she lost the ability to perform as a professional singer, undergoing vocal surgery that left her mute for a week. Through sheer willpower and determination, she regains her voice and sings again – and also runs the London marathon.
Based on her diary entries and blog posts, the performer tells the story of her surgery and also her childhood in Wales, her move to the big smoke and her journey towards success. She guides us through the plethora of her laryngeal doctors and speech therapists during her surgery with aplomb, crafting the entire world from her words and actions. Director Stephen Grihault has kept minimalism as the watchword, and it works perfectly. The stage is bare save for a collection of white cubes that also function as chests. Two projector screens stand either side, onto which are shown films and stills of the singer’s life. Plaudits should also be given to choreographer Steve Kirkham: the way Breckon-Richards moves onstage is balletic. She tells much of her story through her movements, crucially not through her voice.
The play is also a love letter to running. She overcomes the psychological difficulties of losing her gift by taking up running, and the play is a good lesson in how life-affirming and healthy running can be for you. Alongside the narrative, photography and staging, she deserves heaps of praise for her performance, which is incredibly human and both funny and heartbreaking.
For a reason that is difficult to place, the play lacks the “wow” factor. Perhaps it is because it is a hybrid – part play, part diary, part monologue, part exhibition. Perhaps the story inherently lacks the climax that a theatre-going audience might expect. It is impressive and beautiful in its construction, and to watch it is to be exposed to Breckon-Richards’ harrowing and inspiring story. Can You Hear Me Running? will make you think, perhaps above all about how lucky most of us are. Here, the “wow” is not important – it’s the story that is.
Can You Hear Me Running? is at the Pleasance Theatre from 4th until 23rd October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.