Marathon is the thought process you experience when watching the news: what’s wrong with the world today? Heart-breaking story after heart-breaking story. Who’s going to do anything about it? I’d love to help but I can’t, so I’ll just pull the wool over my eyes and continue my day. Who’s to blame? The person in power. Why do they let this happen? Because it’s not their immediate problem.
On another dimensional level, Marathon explores the dysfunctional behaviour behind the structure of the professional acting industry. Fielden finds himself being directed to commit actions he did not morally agree with, but whether this is real or a staged imitation is irrelevant as it sparks questions of personal and moral integrity.
However, Fielden and JAMS don’t invite us into their world for a psychoanalytic consultation on how we should live our lives. This may occur as a result of their efforts; however, it is just as important to explore the methods that they used in order to arrive at the work presented. The form with which I find Marathon shares the most similarities with, would be the work of Bertolt Brecht. Throughout the piece there is a prevalent distancing: the actors very rarely ‘perform’ characters, and the sequences are devoid of sentimentality. The only real piece of ‘acting’ I invest in as such, is for the purpose of exploiting this lack of sentimentality, therefore toying with their audiences understanding of the laugh or cry mentality.
The sequencing is well thought out and constructed in such a way that it is not possible to become attached emotionally or indulge in a single feeling for too long. This compartmentalising made the story far more important than the storytelling. Some may argue that this story must be told as a spectacle with a huge budget in order to convince an audience that it is important. Others will argue that all that is required is human communication. This is wonderfully presented in Marathon as three child-like actors try to imitate the idea of an explosion with gestures and noises. As I watch innocence imitate monstrosity, there grows an intimate connection with the piece.
When you can’t make sense of how it leaves you changed, challenged, guilty, appalled – how can you make this make sense to others? What I can tell you is, go and see Marathon if you want to know what the purpose of theatre is. If you want to know why and how theatre is alive, if you want to understand what a story is and why they are important, if you think that the arts in education is a waste of government funding, or if you think that acting is an unimportant profession.
Alan Fielden with Jams: Marathon is playing at the Barbican Theatre until 29th September. For more information and tickets, see here.