Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: 'It's Not a Sprint' at The Pleasance, 17th October 2018

Reviewed by David James
Rating: 3 Stars

Running is one of my favourite things in the world. Whether it be half marathons with the family, long cross-country runs through pretty locations or the occasional ultra test of physical and mental strength - it's all very much my bag. It's one of the few times in life where you're doing something you can't be distracted from - and where there are no excuses for failure.

So I got a lot out of Grace Chapman's It's Not a Sprint, a one-woman show in which her character Maddy, teetering on the edge of 30, runs a marathon while pondering big questions about her future. She's accompanied by her inner critic (a pre-recorded Chapman piped in over the speakers), who sharply and sadistically quizzes her about whether she should settle for her current boyfriend, whether she'll need to care for her mother as she ages and her ever-ticking biological clock.

With her boyfriend/potential fiance waiting for her at the finish line, the race provides a self-imposed structure and deadline for which to untangle these knots. They are the topics that you would rather not spend too much time pondering - the things that keep you up in bed at night as you curse your misbehaving brain for not letting you drop off to sleep. But, as her brain constantly reminds her "This is going to happen. And sooner rather than later."

As the show proceeds Maddy's physical and mental wellbeing become inextricably linked. For the first easy miles she's blase and carefree, clinging to optimism even in the face of impending disaster. Then, as the fatigue sets in and muscles begin to cramp, there's a negative onslaught of possible awful futures: isolation, miscarriages, loneliness, death. Finally, as she makes it onto that last mile and realises she's actually going to do this, Maddy knows that she's not the failure her voice in her head insists that she is.

After all, if you can run a marathon, then that counts for something. Sure, on paper it's a meaningless distance rewarded with a tin medal, but it proves that you can commit to something, grit your teeth and get through it. As Billy Ocean so memorably sang: "when the going gets tough, the tough get going".

But while the miseries that plague Maddy are well communicated - they are exceptionally familiar miseries. I've seen an awful lot of shows about women feeling as if their lives are a mess as they approach 30, contending with the metronomic beat of a ticking body clock. Watching these shows has made me appreciate the pressure to have children that women feel as they leave their twenties, but each of them says the same things in broadly the same ways and It's Not a Sprint doesn't break the pattern.

Plus you can get to the point where, after endless heartfelt monologues about the woes of the relatively well-off middle-class, you get a bit blase. After a while, you begin to grit their teeth at watching the bourgeoisie sing the blues about their, uh, *checks notes*, long-term relationship, personal physical fitness and committed and loving partner. Pass me the violin.

Despite my misgivings about the show's well-trodden emotional territory, It's Not a Sprint undeniably hits its beats. That is works as well as it does is a testament to Grace Chapman's charisma and dynamism - pulling out all the stops and practically dragging the audience along this marathon with her. It's funny, it's sharply written, it's well performed - if it's over-familiar at least it does it with style.

It's Not a Sprint is at The Pleasance, London until 20th October. Tickets here.

Tags: , , , ,

0 Responses to “Review: 'It's Not a Sprint' at The Pleasance, 17th October 2018”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights