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RUN by Engineer Theatre Collective at New Diorama Theatre

A coin with a running person on itA group of prospective City interns wait to be interviewed; they all have different, rather vague reasons for wanting the job, they are all taken on and it’s downhill the rest of the way.

This is a story we’ve heard frequently in various guises; ambition, pressure, increasing stress, leading to breakdown and despair, or, for the more savage, a higher position with more pressure and more opportunities for savagery, while more natural human instincts for cooperation, kindness and goodwill are lost in the competition for – what? Money? Well yes, but is there ever enough money? More pressure, more stress, more money etc.

Does anyone not yet know that pressure and stress are unhealthy in large doses? That greed is a major quality necessary for a career in finance? No? Well go to the New Diorama where they will demonstrate the fact for you.

The production is by the Engineer Theatre Collective Collective, who evidently do not believe in putting the actors’ character names on the programme, so they must live their roles in this review as well as in performance. The play was ‘developed by the company through extensive research and interviews.’ This is all too obvious. No one apparently has taken the rehearsal improvs, gone away and made a play of them, or given the characters any complexity or depth in their relationships.

Run is a mixture of storytelling and physical theatre, or is it? The two elements were kept as separate as the bride and groom before a wedding:  straightforward drama (of a sort) ground to a halt while the actors went into physical performance, not, it has to be said, very well done. Mimed objects had no real weight or texture, movement and text had no real flow from one to the other.

The play looks devised in that it consists of a collection of moments, nicely acted one has to say, but moments that exist only as moments in themselves and could be almost shuffled around like a deck of cards. Each moment was its own little statement and never went any deeper into the characters, their motivation or their relationships.

One example stayed in my mind and kept me up for hours after the performance: A young man, ‘Lawrence,’ was underachieving, stressed, nervous and under huge personal pressures. He faced the audience, held a plastic cup of water and threw it down the front of his trousers. Oh dear I thought, he’s so pressured he’s too nervous to hold the cup, look, he’s spilled it on his trousers. But a moment later, this incident was referred to as the fact that he’d pissed himself. Oh no, I was about to say – no, he spilled that water in his nervousness, look, he’s shaking. I was wrong.

Yes, he had pissed himself; how foolish I felt. However I still wanted to say ‘no, he’s thrown water down his trousers from that plastic cup.’  In either case, of course, he was stressed. But did he have to do it that way? Could he not at least have turned his back to the audience so we weren’t involved in the technique of throwing water down one’s trousers? Or, better and more interesting, could he not have mimed the piss? Real water took away from the impact of his incontinence. The actor was talented and sympathetic; I’m sure he could have mimed losing self control in a way that got the point across without offence – in fact it’s almost impossible to offend with mimed piss; there were mimed computers, telephones, water taps, mirrors, hairbrushes; would it not be possible to do a briefly mimed piss? The actor did the embarrassment and shame very nicely; he really didn’t need that cup of water nor did we. It is an example of why the production doesn’t work; it hasn’t got a reality on any level and loses a sense of creativity. The physical side of things is too general and very clumsy: people type at computers at a brisk, even pace that has no sense of actual work, taps are turned on and off as if they are made of cotton wool.

That I wasn’t actually tempted to walk out (aside from the lack of an interval) was due to the charm of the actors, all of whom I suspect could have gone further and done bolder work than the production allowed. I was particularly taken with ‘Caroline’ who conveyed fresh faced youthful keenness at the beginning and allowed it to turn into tense, desperate near madness without any pushing or indicating; she aged truthfully and touchingly from within and at the end I barely recognised the cheerful little graduate from the first scene. I’m sorry she had to run around in circles in case we hadn’t understood that she was running around in circles of stress, because she had conveyed that very well in her performance.

One important thing the play never explored and to me, this is the key to its failure: aside from the money, what made this job so desirable and kept most of these people there? what was the morality of it? what was the morality of the interns? what kind of person will do this job? what are the values of the City that are attractive and to whom? what is this society we live in? There was some cursory consideration of this toward the end but it was too little too late.

The audience, mostly the same age as the actors, loved it. For me and I suspect the scattering of older people present, Run is a kind of theatre with which we are familiar from the seventies, and it has nothing new to say, either in script or production. Everyone involved is well intentioned. They are just not quite good or bold enough.

2 gold stars

Review by Kate Beswick

We want more. We do. And why shouldn’t we have it? We’ve worked hard, educated, cultured and motivated ourselves. We’re hungry.

RUN is a story of four investment bank interns chasing a career in the city. Whilst they hold little power today, these young financiers will be at the helm of our banks tomorrow.  Inspired by the true story of Moritz Erhardt, a 21 year old intern who died at his London flat after reportedly working 72 hours straight, RUN exposes the glamour and grind of the square mile.

Using striking physicality, sound and contemporary design, and developed in conversation with the freshest financial minds, award winning theatre company Engineer Theatre Collective give an authentic voice to these young financiers. They confront the violence, lust and death that underpins our rapacious relationship with money and portray a gripping exploration of what drives our natural desire for more.

Engineer Theatre Collective are a group of devisers dedicated to creating visually striking, ensemble-led theatre. Broadly influenced by a Lecoq-based training, they employ a rigorous attitude to rehearsal and development and are always seeking to explore new and challenging story telling forms, using physicality, space and sound to fire an audience’s engagement.

New Diorama Theatre from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th November 2014

Saturday 29th November 2014


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