Philip Dart’s take on the tension between Harold Abrahams (Nicholas Jacobs) and Eric Liddell (Tom Micklem) in the run up to the 1924 Paris Olympics is a fine piece of topical theatre. It uses short scenes, freeze frames, soliloquies and three very talented multi-roling actors whose entertaining, enjoyable ensemble work is so slick and strong that it’s quite difficult to unpick it enough to comment on individual performances.
Nicholas Jacobs gives us an outwardly confident but inwardly nervous Abrahams, the Jewish, Repton-educated outsider struggling to be accepted at Cambridge and elsewhere among Christian Etonians who regard his commitment to athletics as vulgar. Equally tortured is fresh-faced, determined Tom Micklem as Liddell trying to reconcile the demands of his faith with his sport and athletics. All three actors are compelling to watch but versatile Nicholas Cowell as the lower middle class journalist, the gravelly-voiced pipe-smoking coach and the straight talking doctor - among other roles - is outstanding. All the voice work in this production, from Scots to heightened RP, is excellent.
But in many ways the real stars of this show are Lawrence Evans, movement director, who finds imaginative ways of evoking fast and dramatic races in a tiny playing space and the consultant athletes, James Bridge and Candy Hawkins who helped the cast train and develop their running skills. And Amy Yardley has done well with her chocolate brown backcloth to evoke running tracks and brick walls, her quick change on-stage costumes, stools and cloakroom racks.