Why run? To escape, to chase, to win. To be a hero. Edoardo Erba’s single-act play ‘Marathon’ asks this question of the audience in brilliant style: the play exists in a constantly entertaining dichotomy between the epic philosophies and insights of its characters, and their often hilarious outbreaks into malice and vulgarity as the play’s competitive and aggressive subtext breaks the skin of the two flawed, very human men in it.
This version of ‘Marathon’, translated by Colin Teevan, gets its Scandinavian premiere in Krudttønden in the capable hands of That Theatre Company. Well-known British actor in Copenhagen (and Weekly Post columnist) Ian Burns makes his directorial debut, and Mark and Steve, two amateur joggers in training for the New York Marathon, are played by Reumert Award winner Benjamin Stender and RADA graduate Rasmus Mortensen.
Keep on runnin’ – it deserves to
Many plays can claim technical achievements. In ‘Marathon’, Stender and Mortensen can claim a captivating athletic achievement – they run throughout the performance. Constantly. So much so that both were apparently nursing shin splints for most of the rehearsal period. Deft work by the sound and lighting crew, along with a light and knowing touch from Burns (a former cross-country running champion himself), uses this inherent dynamism to enthrall you.
The characters are acted as much with leg and foot movements or changes in their rhythm and pacing as with dialogue and facial expressions. The sparse but well-thought out set and lighting design allows the shadows to dance, naturally, around Krudttønden. Their movements play into the backdrop as a whole, powerfully and convincingly giving the impression you are watching the characters on the muddy, dark lane in the woods where they are training.
To call ‘Marathon’ original is damning with faint praise – this is a little Godot that daubs masculinity across canvases of love, family, death, heroism, battles, lesbians and potentially ruptured spleens. The questions it asks are broad and far-reaching – the hilarity with which it asks them crude, incisive or coming from silence. You cannot deny the brilliance of a play that makes two men in a room something much, much more than that.