The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner

Written by Alan Sillitoe
Adapted for the stage by Roy Williams
Directed by Marcus Romer
Presented by Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal
Liverpool Playhouse
30th October - 3rd November 2012

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

It is over fifty years since Alan Sillitoe penned The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, but this adaptation for the stage shows how little has changed since then, in regard to major social problems and the alienation of British working class youngsters from mainstream society.

Most of the dialogue is taken from the original text but there is no sign of it sounding dated in the least, even though the play focuses on the riots which took place in England in 2011 and the frustrations and anger endured by those taking part, notably the antisocial Colin Smith, impressively portrayed by Elliot Barnes-Worrell.

In a very novel theatrical device he spends most of the time running on a specially-designed treadmill, perhaps as a metaphor for running on empty. As he pounds away through the woods and fields he constantly ruminates on how he ended up in a young offender's institute as well as the characters who have had major influences on his life, for good and bad - his father being a benign influence and his materialistic mother less so.

The flashbacks he experiences while running are imaginatively portrayed, notably a number of poignant comments from his now dead father on how to conduct oneself in life. He made one particularly memorable quote, stating that young people "now want to be not to do."

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