A man runs and runs, trying to make sense of life following his daughter’s death from leukaemia. In a new production, our alumni and students collaborate to tell a true story of grief and healing.
The forthcoming production of I RUN is a collaboration between BA Performance: Design and Practice student Ludwig Meslet, MA Directing graduate Camilla Gürtler and BA Acting graduate Max Keeble. The play made its UK debut last year at Central Saint Martins as part of Gürtler’s MA Directing showcase. It then moved to London’s Vault Festival in March and is appearing at Theatre503 during the Edinburgh Festival, 31 July – 26 August, with Cut the Cord Theatre, a company formed at Drama Centre in 2017. After meeting at Central Saint Martins while studying, Gürtler, Keeble and Meslet collaborated on the first performance and decided to continue telling its story.
Written by award-winning Danish playwright Line Mørkeby, the show presents one man and his running machine. The narrative moves forwards and backwards in time through projections while he runs and shares memories of his daughter. “He starts running and he doesn’t stop until the end,” explains Gürtler, emphasising the reality of the physical performance. “It’s a technical challenge,” agrees Keeble, “the mind is so much quicker when you’ve been running. I have to take time to calm down, because there’s so much that you’ve told your body is happening, it’s fight or flight.”
Movement and emotion are interlaced not only through the rhythms at play but also in the disruptive moments when Keeble climbs or falls from the machine.
“When you push a performer through something so challenging you shed layers. It’s beyond technique, Max has to go through it physically and emotionally. It’s raw, vulnerable and hard to watch but you really understand the life of this man… He runs because he can’t talk about it.” Camilla Gürtler
“You’ve got everything: the smell, the sweat, the vocals, the lights. It’s a full experience. It hits you in the gut,” says Meslet who's producing the piece for his final project, “what’s really important in today’s theatre is that his performance bridges the gap between being a performer and being a person. The audience has both: the performance is affected by words and narrative but Max as a person is also affected by his own performance. This is what the theatre should seek … It’s no longer about stories given to the audience. It’s more inclusive. It’s performance, performer and person.”
Initially Gürtler found the play while exploring Scandinavian theatre. She was looking to connect to her Danish roots and yet the production is international to its core (Keeble is British, designer Niall McKeever is Irish, and Meslet, French).
“What’s more interesting than the place the play comes from is the way Danish playwrights talk about these issues. It’s direct, very rhythmic and poetic. It’s a frame that is quite unique – it shifts a different light onto the subject. A lot of international work is about doing things slightly differently so bringing this play to the UK is like seeing the subject in a new light, that sense of different cultures coming together.” Camilla Gürtler
Returning to the play after its initial performance last year, what changes? Everything, says Meslet: “New audience, new space, new show.” “There’s a lot to be said for leaving it and returning to it,” agrees Keeble, “You can never feel like you nailed it. It’s never perfect. You may never fully understand it.”
One development since last year is that the production is now supported by a host of partners – from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Children with Cancer to PureGym and the Danish Embassy. These partners bring new audiences and new perspectives, as well as material support, all of which helps expand the production’s resonance through workshops, Q&As and fundraising.
As Artistic Director of Cut the Cord, Gürtler has previously covered subjects like gene technology, the refugee crisis and consent: “Our focus is to be socially engaged,” she explains, “and it’s key to work with partners to raise awareness of these themes. It makes the play go further, it becomes more than itself. Watch the show, immerse yourself in it but think about why it moved you and what you can do.”