Chats, joints, Hebrew and sex. These are just some of the words spouted in a long, eloquent reel by Yonni (Tom Ross-Williams) to summarise his relationship with Adam in Run. The 17-year-old gay Jewish Londoner is navigating his first same-sex romantic relationship while keeping it a secret from his parents.
Yonni meets Adam on the last day of school, the summer after GCSEs. The pair are swept into a heady, whirlwind romance, texting, tweeting, discussing science and politics, attending a camp and taking day trips to the seaside. Playwright Stephen Laughton captures the wonder, thrills and passion of first love, channeling this through the happy-go-lucky attitude of a teenager who has time on his hands and a romanticised, easy-going vision of the future. That is, until Yonni loses Adam following their first blazing row.
Yonni’s flashbacks to poignant moments with Adam are intertwined with scenes from his home life with his parents. The two worlds spar with one another, and kitchen scenes under the watchful gaze of his mother remind us of Yonni’s status as a minor. Referring to his sometimes suffocating, often loving parents by their names Devorah and Reuben – rather than any variation of ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ – is Yonni’s conscious way of distancing himself from them; a cry for independence.
Ross-Williams is youthful and spirited in the lead role. He masters Laughton’s often tricky script, winning his audience over before carrying us through his story. Descriptions of intimate moments in the relationship, such as the first time Yonni sleeps with Adam, are articulately told, if a little over-rehearsed. Exposed on a bare stage, director Lucy Wray has Ross-Williams telling the story through movement as much as words. It can be difficult to paint a picture from other people’s rose-tinted memories, and it’s initially hard work trying to grasp Adam as a person, through Yonni’s recollections. “I’m lost somewhere in the twilight of my thoughts,” says Yonni, and we feel this, witnessing him in the bareness of his surroundings, calling up memories and moments with characters we can’t physically see.
Additional props and sound effects are occasionally introduced, and when they do, they’re effective. The crunching of a thin strip of pebbles lining the back of the stage, coupled with recorded sounds of the sea, transports us excellently to an English beach. Later, the Jewish custom of laying a stone on a grave brings us out of Yonni’s memories and into his present moment.
Tensions between Yonni’s Jewish upbringing and his identity as a gay British teenager form the undercurrent of Run. Early on in the narrative, Yonni finds himself physically torn between Adam, who is trying to pass on his number in the playground, and Devorah, who is beckoning home. At times, this conflict is portrayed with humour, at others it’s far more serious, in particular when Yonni is the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. But above all – and even without these additional strands of narrative – Run is a tender, funny and contemporary coming-of-age play.
Run is on until 1 April 2017 at The Bunker. Click here for more details.