IT IS a show that hits the ground running and for the lead actor, never stops.
In his first theatre role since leaving drama school in the summer, Elliot Barnes-Worrell was perfect casting.
This young actor who loves to run was exactly what director Marcus Romer had been looking for to play the central role in the iconic play, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner.
“It’s Elliot’s first professional job since leaving the Central School of Speech and Drama,” said the show’s director, Marcus Romer.
“He finished his training in July and he was working with us in August. He’s 21. He’s a trained actor and he’s a runner. We struck lucky at the casting.”
“We are going to see a lot more of Elliot.
“I am really excited about finding an actor with such talent who has risen to the challenge and done so extraordinarily well.”
See Elliot at the Lawrence Batley Theatre next week as Colin Smith, the defiant young man in Alan Sillitoe’s classic Fifties’ story which is just as relevant today as it was then.
In Sillitoe’s piece, updated by playwright Roy Williams in this stage version, to the aftermath of last year’s Tottenham riots in London, long distance running offers Smith a welcome distraction from the Young Offenders Institution to which he has been sent for looting.
He is offered the prospect of early release if he wins in a cross-country competition against youngsters from a public school.
It might seem an obvious incentive to cooperate but as Colin runs, we discover what his life was like before and what he hopes it might yet be.
For many, the title of the piece conjures up images of Tony Richardson’s iconic film made in the Sixties and starring Tom Courtenay as Colin.
But Sillitoe’s story remains a parable for today. In today’s unsettled times it will continue to resonate for many who see this co-production between award-winning Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal.
The production opens at the LBT on Wednesday and runs until Saturday.
During each performance, Elliot will be on stage for the entire 90 minutes.
He will spend it running about 3,000 metres – the same distance as an Olympic steeplechase race except he will be doing it on a specially constructed six metres long treadmill.
“We run the race in real time. There’s no interval,” said Marcus.
“At the end, Colin decides to throw the race. He has to make a choice. For him that’s a very empowering moment.
“He let’s the posh boy from the public school win. He stands there and lets that happen. It is a moment of defiance and choice.
“The impact of it is like Mo Farah getting to the line and not crossing it. It’s unthinkable.”
“I think it is a very powerful piece which still has a lot to say,” said Marcus.
For Elliot, who plays Colin, the role has had as many physical as well as emotional challenges.
Fortunately, he is in to his sport. He practices thai kick boxing and used to run 10km once a week as part of the London urban running collective Run Dem Crew.
Once he’d landed the part of Colin, he had to step up the mileage, training four times a week.
You’ll see why he needed it. There are six performances at the LBT, four evening shows plus matinees on Thursday and Saturday.
That means in four days of shows in Huddersfield, Elliot will clock up something like 18,000 metres on that treadmill.
“My passion for running the streets was borne out of Run Dem Crew. It’s like a family and we aim to run hard, fast and strong but we leave no one behind,” said Elliot.
“Then when I got the role of Colin I started running solo, just to get that loneliness feeling.
“It’s really helped my understanding of his character, of how he’s thinking all the time, reliving every detail of what has gone before.’
Tickets can be booked via the theatre box office on 01484 430528 or online at www.thelbt.org.