When to Run, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Lynne Walker
Friday 02 May 2008 00:00
Comments

There's no running away from Sophie Woolley in her one-woman comedy play, When to Run. The four female characters she plays become unconsciously and hopelessly entangled. Her writing is too acutely funny to be seriously dark in tone, darting between four females of different ages and social backgrounds, and her ear for the way in which her specific character types speak is a delight.

The setting is a park with a patch of grass, a bench and the silhouette of a cityscape projected overhead. Directed by Gemma Fairlie, Woolley introduces each character with little more than a swift change of posture and accent. Julia is a happy-go-lucky Cockney girl with a dog-walking business called Dogminatrix, a clever joke that seems to have left her devoid of any further ambition except to be married.

Emma is posh, a narcissist hooked on adrenalin. She channels the frustrations and desires that a glossy lifestyle can't satisfy or fulfil into a terrifyingly rigid regime of running. Running for her is about cultivating authority but it's also a vanity thing – a race against nature and the ageing process. Fifteen-year-old Shelley is an Olympic runner in the making, spattering her speech with teenage colloquialisms. She's streetwise but she wants street cred.

It takes no time at all to settle in with the characters and the narrative so that when a fourth woman is introduced she already feels like an old acquaintance. Celia is a control freak, a life-coach who adopts a clipped manner of speaking which is what she "sounds like inside" – and is just how Celia Johnson sounds in Brief Encounter. All four women have strangely static interior lives, rapidly exposed as Woolley gets into her stride.

It is a witty idea, well executed. The common themes Woolley exposes – loneliness, hubris, romantic irony, artlessness – are imaginatively drawn together in these wryly observed monologues. The imagery Woolley creates is fast-moving; text is projected, making the show accessible for those with hearing difficulties.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in