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26.2 Reasons to Stay Alive at the Old Red Lion Theatre

A treadmill, Bob the Builder, and tap dance populate this heart-warming semi-autobiographical story all told in the world of marathon running. Laura Mugford is the writer, designer and performer of this new show that while very heart-warming, leaves me slightly unchanged from when I sat down.

26.2 Reasons to Stay Alive at the Old Red Lion Theatre London
26.2 Reasons to Stay Alive at the Old Red Lion Theatre London

The show is a trip down memory lane. As we meander away from a cul de sac with complications we stop occasionally for the nerves of school dance shows and the scorching heat of sports days before eventually emerging triumphant for the London Marathon. The stories Mugford weaves together are laced with nostalgia, a shared memory of the most ridiculously stereotypical English upbringing. This is fun, Mugford’s charming observations elicit laughter and create a warm atmosphere in the room. That being said, with these memories come the less sunny memories of bullying. It is here that we find the centre of the play.

The show’s start is told over the course of ‘Runner’ (Laura Mugford) running the London Marathon, stopping occasionally to delve into a different childhood memory. The show tracks Runner as she reconsiders her childhood, vindicating old wounds from vindictive bullying by student and teacher alike, many of which troubled her early life. By the end of the play, we can see a future, making for a rather hopeful trajectory for the piece.

Mugford is charming, has playful moments, namely a Bob the Builder-themed tap dance, and is a very good storyteller. Her engagement with the audience carries the show and you really feel for her as the show goes on.

The show is certainly a pleasant watch. But there are a couple of things that left me wanting more. There are a couple of allusions to serious health complications, which never feel quite substantially explored, perhaps this is intentional, but it felt like a loose end. The other is that airing childhood grievances is all well and good, but I don’t know if it warrants a whole show. That’s unfair, it is about overcoming issues of self-esteem, feeling singled out and knowing who you are, but it’s a very personal journey, and I didn’t feel related to it. Of course, you route for her, but that’s kind of it.

The show is fun, it’s funny, it’s well told and there’s a certain nostalgia to it; it’s nice. But I think I wanted it to be a bit more than, well, nice.

3 Star Review

Review by Tom Carter

I am on the Mall, 385 yards from the rest of my life

Have you ever ran a marathon? Wanted to? Couldn’t think of anything worse? This 60-minute treadmill spectacular might just get you lacing up your trainers and hitting the pavement. This semi-autobiographical comedy follows ‘Runner’ as she navigates her first marathon, and every key moment in her life that lead her to the start line. From chronic illness, bullies, and nights in hospital all the way to the origins of the marathon itself, this play, performed all while running, will leave you wondering – what would you do to stay alive?

Written by actor, writer, designer (and runner) Laura Mugford, who has now completed two marathons with an Ultra marathon on the cards for next year, this small but mighty piece is explores why we run. To answer such a question, we must ask ourselves another – what are we running from?

Performance Dates: Tuesday 23rd – Thursday 25th January

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