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Review of It’s Not A Sprint at the Vault Festival

It's Not a SprintThe thing about a one-act, one-hour show delivered at quite a pace being called It’s Not A Sprint is simply this: the team behind it could have fooled me. Maddy (Grace Chapman), 30 years of age, is running a marathon. Which one is not made clear – the apparent size of both the crowds and the number of runners suggests London, but there are of course other marathons elsewhere that also attract significant numbers. There’s a voice, presumably one inside her own head, that seeks to converse with her both before and during her marathon run. The voice is relentlessly negative, ever questioning, positing various scenarios to Maddy, all of which end in something unpleasant and/or undesirable.

Coming across as a stream of consciousness, the narrative is as meandering as the marathon course itself, touching on a large number of issues and themes without really exploring any in great detail – to put it another way, breadth rather than depth is the order of the day in this production. It’s indicative, I suppose, of the quarter-life-crisis nature of the storyline, in which many different thoughts are running (sorry) through Maddy’s brain. She does have a warm personality, though, and Chapman establishes and maintains a good rapport with the audience.

People can be their own harshest critics, and Maddy’s counterpart (that is, the voice in her head, audible to the audience, a recorded voice that keeps up with Maddy’s live speech with impeccable timing) makes comparisons between the steady career paths of her peers who Maddy went to university with, and her relative inability to hold down a job for very long. It is often said that completing a marathon is as much a test of mental and psychological endurance as it a physical one, but when Maddy is internally trying to work out her future at the same time, particularly with regards to boyfriend Pete and the credible possibility of starting a family together, the play veers towards becoming something exhausting to watch.

There’s a high level of familiarity, I suspect, amongst audiences at large with these and other topics Maddy discusses. The biological clock, for instance, continues to tick, and the previous evening, Pete unfurled a sign (as in, a large banner). The exact wording is never made clear. It is, from what I could deduce, along the lines of Pete wanting to run alongside Maddy until the finish line of death should part them. A game called ‘The Fertility Flowchart’ throws miscellaneous obstacles in the way of Maddy’s desire to have children.

A considerable amount of running on the spot is undertaken, perhaps a metaphor for Maddy feeling as though she is stuck in a rut. This gives rise to a palpable sense of exhaustion that comes with running a marathon. But as the problems (mostly if not entirely of a first world order) continue to pile up, the character becomes less likeable – less human even, as though Maddy is representative of several people, each with different struggles, rather than one person allegedly dealt a particularly bad hand in life. There is, at least, some good comic timing to enjoy in this somewhat engaging and energetic play.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s Not a Sprint
Vault Festival

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