Review by Tash Bradshaw
Gavin Roach’s Run is provocative and poetic work, and a must-see part of Midsumma festival.
It is a solo performance that tells the story of seventeen year-old Yonni, a gay, Jewish boy with a typically dysfunctional family and an infatuation with his soulmate Adam. Without meeting Adam, we get a sense of his charm, mainly through the fun science facts scattered throughout the performance. Their queer love story feels real, and is relatable to any audience. We are also given vivid imagery of his family’s chaos and dysfunction as they prepare for Shabbat, as well as the love and care they have for him.
Ben Stuart’s performance as Yonni was simply outstanding. I was skeptical about listening to one man’s hour long soliloquy, especially as he took a few minutes to ease into the character. But after a few minutes, he became effortlessly captivating, and his candour and passion ensured you hung off every word that came out of his mouth.
His endurance was limitless, and the diversity of emotion he expertly portrayed was astonishing as he took us on a journey of love, laughter frustration, and grief.
The simplicity of the staging left Stuart with nothing to hide behind, not that he needed it. He wore grey tracksuit pants, a white tank and held a soccer ball, with only a chair and some turf for company on stage. He expertly navigated us between the kitchen, two different bedrooms, a school camp, a beach, a bakery, a graveyard, a park and even to outer space.
The colour and brightness of the lighting indicated when we were moving between these settings, as well as between past and present, real, imagined and surreal.
Movement between anxious chaos and calm added to the poetic nature of the play. In an early scene the chaos of the family dispute and the dog in the kitchen is broken up by the egg moving from right hand to left, right to left. And the craziness and embarrassment of the school pick-up is broken by the eye contact with Adam, freezing the chaos in time. Yonni’s anxiety begins with small and humorous things, like being offended by the colour orange or deep-fried potatoes, but we soon learn that he is dealing with much greater problems.
But in the last 10 minutes, there is only chaos, and this audience member was left overwhelmed and a little confused by the hard-hitting ending.
The play’s subtle but profound exploration of modern-day anti-Semitism provides a powerful reminder that anti-Semitism remains rife and we shouldn’t be complacent. You could be forgiven for thinking that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past, especially in Australia, but unfortunately that is not the case. There were 478 antisemitic incidents logged across Australia in the past 12 months alone, representing an increase of 40 per cent in the past two years. Similar trends have emerged in the UK, where the play is set.
Indeed, it would not have hurt to adapt the script to reflect Stuart’s more than obvious Australian accent.
No matter who you are, this is a powerful and moving piece that you are bound to enjoy and reflect on.