A man is standing on a treadmill, hunched over, readying himself. He is brightly lit by fluorescent lamps and there is something broken in his demeanour as if he is carrying an unimaginable burden, exhausted before he has even started the race.
Presented by Cut the Cord, I Run is a gripping one-man play about loss, grief and running. A new play by award-winning Danish playwright Line Mørkeby, translated by Kim Dambæk, I Run follows the journey of a dad who loses his six-year-old daughter to cancer. With his world crashing down around him, he begins to run. Every mile takes him closer to that euphoric moment, heart pumping, lungs burning and feet moving independently from the brain. The point where he no longer runs but soars and he feels as though he can hear his daughter’s voice again.
Max Keeble’s performance as the dad is heroic. The role puts his acting chops, never mind his fitness, to the test. Even when you can see the sweat dripping off his face, he pushes forward and delivers his lines with carefully poised emotion. Moreover, Keeble manages to give the heavy-handed script enough drive and energy as to appear powerful rather than clumsy.
Director Camilla Gürtler achieves an impressive pace in her production. The audience is kept on its toes, at times submerged in raw and immediate emotion and at others jogging along as Keeble races ahead only to let us catch up again a moment later.
At some points, this pace does leave me feeling very detached from the story. The moment a plot point reveals itself and we are allowed a little further insight into the character, we are whisked off on another run. A few more breaks in pace would help the more delicate emotions flourish and add a warmer and more sensitive layer to the character of Dad.
Although at first I find the treadmill and the bright lights a distraction, as the character and story begin to unfold I start to warm to them. With much of the concentration pulled onto the character of the Dad, the treadmill stops feeling like the elephant in the room and becomes part of his character.
Niall McKeever’s scaled back design is fantastic at achieving a sense of focus in a play which constantly switches in time and emotional volition.
Altogether, I Run is pure velocity. It sucks you into the life-shattering void that is loss and places the spotlight on the self-destructive and challenging nature of male grief and depression.
Grief is perhaps one of life’s most universal emotional experiences, yet the way we process it is as individual to us as our own fingerprint. Some people throw themselves into their job and others start to run.
I Run is playing until 17 March. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.