THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
by Alan Sillitoe adapted Roy Williams.
Tour to 24 November 2012.
Runs 1h 30m No interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 23 October 2012.
Should have been left as a fifties kitchen-sinker. Good all the same.
A bad boy is in a young offenders’ institution. Being a naturally gifted long-distance runner, he’s encouraged to compete in a joint sporting event with the local grammar and public schools. He’s an embittered loner: will he or won’t he co-operate?
This is, of course, an adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s late-fifties long short story, which had a strong white working-class Nottingham background. But this isn’t Nottingham; if anything, it’s south London. And it’s up-dated to a very contemporary England complete with back projected clips of David Cameron and references to the Olympics and last year’s riots.
Insofar as it keeps to the same structure it’s faithful to the original: the central protagonist is on a lone cross-country run and, as he runs, is looking back at his earlier life and the circumstances that led to his banging up. But it’s different insofar as this time round Colin Smith and most of his cronies are black; they speak with that yoof street argot which can be impenetrable to Middle England. It is here: some of the cast can hardly be understood. Old-stagers in the audience, film in mind, might have been thinking ‘bring back Tom Courtenay’.
More seriously, the Black adolescent who excels at a sport isn’t a rebel or a loner: he’s a conformist to the point of stereotype. It would have been better to leave Loneliness as a kitchen-sink period piece about the white working class, trusting the audience to draw its own parallels.
Adapter Roy Williams retains that immortal cliché “If you play ball with us, we’ll play ball with you” – one suspected he would – but he takes it from the middle-aged borstal governor of the story and gives it to an unconvincingly diminutive female guard.
Elliot Barnes-Worrall is a brilliant Colin Smith. He delivers his soliloquy convincingly, so that Smith comes over as an arrogant but admirable loner, a Hamlet figure (overtly so at the point when he confronts his mum over the latest boyfriend) at odds with a rotten society. He does it whilst he’s really running or doing press-ups. This is a fit actor.
Colin Smith: Elliot Barnes-Worrell.
Mum: Doreene Blackstock.
Luke/PC: Curtis Cole.
Stevens: Dominic Gately.
Kenisha: Savannah Gordon-Liburd.
Gunthorpe/Guard: Luke James.
Jase: Jack McMullen.
Dad/Trevor: Richard Pepple.
Sandra/Guard: Alix Ross.
Asher/PC: Sean Sagar.
Director: Marcus Romer.
Designer: Lydia Denno.
Lighting: Mark Beasley.
Sound/Composer: Sandy Nuttgens.