I Run is Danish playwright Line Mørkeby’s new collaboration with Cut the Cord theatre company. The one-act play is part of the Let’s Talk @ Vault Festival campaign, and aims to shine a light on how we talk about death and grief.
A dad – played by Max Keeble in a tremendous physical performance – loses his six-year-old daughter to cancer. Overcome with grief, he turns to running as a form of therapy, to achieve a spiritual reconnection with Ellen during the fleeting moments of a runner’s high. The audience funnels into the intimate Waterloo Vaults’ Cage theatre and forms a circle around Keeble. In a black running kit, he slumps static over the handlebars of a treadmill, his pale pink headband the only trace of colour on stage. Composer Sarah Carton’s spectral soundscape pulses; fluorescent tubelights on either side of the treadmill flicker to signal silence: the play opens.
“I am the father of a dead daughter. It’s the ultimate loss of control. Ellen’s body withered and died. A run is exactly the opposite: it is the ultimate form of control.” Mørkeby’s lines are intended to flow with poetic lyricism, a rhythm that matches the cadence of a run; her use of repetition is meant to reflect running’s iterative motions – in her words, “One foot in front of the other; the other in front of the one.” In reality, Mørkeby’s constructions are frequently abstruse and jarring. Translation challenges and artistic license come at the cost of audience immersion as we reflect on strange semantics, and repetition is consistently overwrought. If intended to show the dad’s slip into madness, it’s at times maddening to witness.
In creating I Run, Mørkeby and Cut the Cord set off with noble aims to explore how exercise can improve mental health and the difficulties of talking about death. Yet the play presents running as a borderline unhealthy addiction, a means of escape not just from grief but from reality, responsibility – 550 days after Ellen’s death, Keeble’s character remembers he has a second daughter. For the entire play (over 700 days) he inexplicably doesn’t work. As to speaking about death? He speaks only to the audience, internalising everything. Overall, his character is unsympathetic, self-absorbed in his own mourning. And that’s ok, everyone grieves differently and is entitled to their individual reaction. Perhaps the very fact that I Run prompts these thoughts validates this over-burdened and somewhat plot-holed production.
Photo: Fay Summerfield
I Run is at the Cage from 13th until 17th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for I Run here: