Cut The Cord Theatre's I Run charts a father, who pounds the pavement to escape his grief. Can he outrun the pain? Maggie Kelly reviews:

Grief is a hard thing to analyse in depth – it’s simultaneously such a universal experience and one that is painfully unique to the one suffering. Max Keeble attempts to tackle this rather bleak subject matter in Line Mørkeby‘s I Run, focussing around the grief of a father who’s just lost his six-year old daughter, Ellen, to leukemia. He jogs, he sprints, he attempts to fly as the small screen attached to the front of his running machine ticks away the days past Ellen’s death.

Max Keeble (image courtesy of Fay Summerfield)

It’s a haunting watch. Keeble is confined by the running machine, a performance taking place literally only on two square metres of stage. He narrates finding bruises on his five-year old daughter one day, taking her to the hospital for a checkup and some blood tests. The doctor clears his throat nervously, tells Keeble they should probably take Ellen to the hospital for a more detailed analysis as the ones he’s just received are inconclusive.

Inconclusive but worrying.

Run Pleasance Courtyard
Max Keeble (image courtesy of Fay Summerfield)

Keeble’s stirling performance is backed up by Niall McKeever’s terrific, in-yer-face lighting design. Four neon tubes flicker on and off during hospital sequences, pinning Keeble in a harsh, bright whiteness. The pounding of the running machine becomes almost hypnotic as he describes the months after turning his daughter’s respirator off, then isolating himself from the rest of his family and focussing on the pavement beneath his feet.

Run Pleasance Courtyard
Max Keeble (image courtesy of Fay Summerfield)

I Run is a little unyielding in its dissection of grief. There are ups and downs in the mourning process – yes, there’s the pain right up in the back of the throat, but there are also moments where the sun breaks through, however briefly. In focussing on the moments of despair and collapse, the show becomes a little tricky to wade through. The nuance is missing – it become an analysis of despair and sad rather than an analysis of grief itself.

★★★☆☆

I Run is now playing at Pleasance Courtyard until 25 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.