A graffiti lined walkway leads to the underground maze of dark tunnels that house The Vault arts festival and it is here, underneath Waterloo Station, that Stephen Laughton’s play Run was performed last week, writes Fiona Leckerman.
Set in traverse and with the rumble of trains heard above, Tom Ross-Williams crouches on the floor circling a mound of sand with his finger; he is almost unnoticeable as the audience filter in.
The milieu of the venue with its live music and multiple shows disappears as Ross-Williams begins his transformation into Yonni, the 17-year-old Jewish gay character Laughton has created and who captivates from the opening line until the last breath of this one-man, one act masterpiece.
Run is a play that above all depicts the first flourishes of love. It’s particularly refreshing that Laughton does not touch on Yonni’s discovery of his sexuality, nor does he hint at any opposition to it, which leaves the space for Yonni’s experience of love to be untainted by any conventional stereotypical teenage gay issues. Part of a religious family, Yonni’s sexuality is not broached; it is only when he is kicked out of Habonim Camp, that there is an insinuation of prejudice.
The play focuses on his relationship with Adam, whom Yonni falls for on school muck up day. “The kids in my year are all excited ‘bout egg and flour and maybe the odd firework. Some kids trying to convince us to catapult chickens at the school walls. I hope they’re kosher. And in the rabble I spot you.”
Yonni describes Adam: “Hot. Blue-green eyes. Messy Hair. Cute smile. You’re fair. Not like me. Intellectual. Less like me. A nice Ashkenazi boy.”
Yonni, a Sephardi Hebrew speaking cool kid, often contrasts Adam’s romantic intellectualism. Laughton’s dialogue is poetic, rhythmic and lyrical.“It’s gentle. Accidental. Fully kinda mental”.
As Ross-Williams fully immerses himself in the space with a fluidity of movement, carrying the play with an undulating pace. Yonni’s feelings for Adam expand as their relationship grows, he expresses love and lust and shame and yearning; it builds and builds until the shocking conclusion.
With Laughton’s words and Oli Rose’s direction, which fuses elements of performance art, Run is a feat of astounding brilliance, it is visceral, engaging and deeply emotional.
Yonni’s experience of love is relatable, relevant and tackles the zeitgeist of social media with humour.
Laughton is a superb writer and coupled with Ross-Williams disarming performance Run is a triumph, so much so it thoroughly deserves a better venue and a wider audience.