Seventeen-year-old Yonni (Tom Ross-Williams) – knees bent, fingers curled – can barely contain himself. His devoutly Jewish family is preparing for the weekly shabbat, but he is light years away – on Venus, on Ganymede, on a grey Dungeness beach – spaces and places all tied to his infatuation with his schoolmate, Adam. As the evening’s events unfold, a deeply personal story about puppy love soon expands to interrogate that difficult intersection of religion and queerness.
But Run’s energy seems to have flagged since its premiere at the Vault Festival last year. This revival of the well-reviewed solo show often feels like juvenilia ripped from the pages of a teenage diary: stuffed with angst, pretentious attempts at philosophy and an obsession with describing life’s minutiae. It’s also a reminder that what may sound whimsical and poetic to a teenager usually isn’t.
Run could be the inverse of Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film, Moonlight, which also traces the coming-of-age of a gay man from a marginalised community. Where Moonlight was a masterclass in subtlety and restraint, Run is a talky, showy, stream-of-consciousness narrative rooted in Yonni’s fevered imagination.
Ross-Williams’ performance and Lucy Wray’s direction draw from the rhythmic cadences of performance poetry – but it’s a visibly stylised, choreographed performance that doesn’t always lend itself well to the tensions at play, smoothing over a lot of the struggle that could have given Yonni’s tale of love and brutality greater heft. It’s a show that strives to break hearts but ends up relying on splintery plot twists for shock and fracture, and it’s unfortunate that so much of its warm, unselfconscious rawness ends up feeling very rehearsed.