Photo – Jordan White
Run Girl Run by Grit Theatre at Brisbane Festival is standout physical theatre for all the right reasons. Performed entirely on treadmills, the show hurtles through an exploration of gender identity and performance, created on a base of champagne, sweat and tears.
Simplicity is key in this show with three actors, three treadmills and a smattering of well used props to fill both the otherwise bare studio and the audience’s hour. The dialogue and action follow repetitive paths throughout the piece, which creates a familiar landing point for an audience swept along in the fast pace. The show is so quick to pass, in fact, that the audience leaves almost cruelly wanting more from the spent actors who have strolled, shimmied and sprinted on the moving platforms for the duration of the sixty minutes.
The actors each have an excellent and equal presence on stage. There is a playfulness between them that belies the subtlety of the piece, and the relaxed and comfortable energy of a well curated ensemble. They perform what really could be a slightly dangerous show with a confidence that comes from already having toured it nationally, but they have not lost that sense of nervous energy that comes hand in hand with the risk of such a physical live performance. This energy sucks the audience in from the unfolding of the first treadmill, and gripping their full attention until the last step has been taken.
The informal nature of the space, with plain plastic chairs set close to the performance area, invites the audience to engage with the show from the beginning. It’s always great to be part of a vocal audience, and Run Girl Run brings its viewers to the edge of their seats and even sometimes standing, as well as laughing, gasping, squirming and crying out in alarm. Just as the actors are well worked during the show, the audience run the full gamut of emotions with them.
Taking away the spectacle of the treadmills and the physical feats performed upon them, Run Girl Run is a deceptively nuanced piece. The cross gender casting allows what could otherwise be caricature characters some depth, and the repetition within and between the “male” and the “female” sets allows for a targeted exploration of specific aspects of gender performance. It would be excellent to see this exploration taken further and for a further articulated point to be made with the show, however the question of whether this is possible to do with actors’ bodies that are already left exhausted by its end is raised.
Run Girl Run is a sweaty affront that leaves the audience wanting more. It would be great to see this show developed even further, and builds anticipation for what Grit Theatre will bring to stages, or treadmills, next.
Brisbane Festival and QUT present
RUN GIRL RUN
Venue: Theatre Republic | La Boite Studio, Cnr Kelvin Grove Rd & Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove QLD
Dates: 9 – 13 Sept, 2014
Tickets: $25 – $20