Continuing on as normal yesterday felt bizarre. I was at work near St Paul’s when one of my colleagues first floated that some alleged…something, some horrible thing, might be happening outside the Houses of Parliament. It was 2:50pm. We spent the rest of the day in a contemplative blur; heads down, keeping up with the news, quietly sharing new information as the afternoon’s events unfolded.
I left work and went to the theatre with my friend. We talked about the day, what we knew, what we didn’t know yet. Laughed carefully about concerned parents who were worried about our safety, funny considering we’re so distant way over in Blackfriars, a whole 1.5 miles away from Parliament.
We crossed Blackfriars bridge and the London Eye was stationary, and we didn’t feel so distant any more.
After the play, Tom Ross-Williams who had carried the one-man play as Yonni, acknowledged the day, “Theatre has always been a refuge for me, so thank you for choosing to be here tonight.”
Run is the story of a young, gay Jewish man in north London. It’s a coming out and coming of age play that is so melodically and carefully read by Ross-Williams that it sounds like a poem. Merely on a logistical front, remembering over an hour of continuous spoken word is an enormous, terrifying feat. Ross-Williams deftly introduced us to the physical, lyrical, time-bending, space shifting nature of Run. It requires keeping up with, and in the wrong hands could be difficult to do, but he brings us along gently through his story. Yonni is very carefully directed by Lucy Wray, and played considerately; it can be confusing at times, trying to work out where in this space-time continuum story we currently are, but I think that may be the point.
Written by Stephen Laughton, Run is a tight glimpse into a world I don’t understand. It’s a world of Shabbat, kippahs, the mêlée of faith and sexuality, but Laughton makes the story so accessible and human that it all feels very familiar.
If the messages in the Bible or the Torah or on the internet or on the news tell us anything, it’s that people listen to stories. Stories give us something tangible to hold on to; they shape and support things we know and understand, and show us things we don’t. Theatre can, and must, do the same. Because at the end of the day, Run is not really a story about a gay Jewish teen, just as yesterday’s attack is not a story about a religious extremist. One is just a story about love, and one is just a story about fear. It’s up to us which we choose to listen to.