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I’m Not Running Review - National Theatre

Playing till 31st January 2019

Standard Ticket - £15.00

Entry Pass (aged 16-25) - £7.50


David Hare’s new play ‘I’m Not Running’ opened earlier this month at the National Theatre. To take advantage of London’s cultural scene (for the first time in nearly two years of being at King’s...) we decided to dip our collective toe into the water of The National, following some reasonably persuasive Facebook ads. The play itself was rather less convincing. Although there were some good performances in supporting roles, and creative set design, on the whole we were unimpressed by the lack of nuance in the script, the often over-zealous delivery of the leading actor (Sian Brooke as Pauline Gibson) which felt inappropriate in its context, and the blatant partisan humour.

As we now attempt to provide a brief summary of the play’s plot, we find ourselves struggling to identify the development of any significant storyline. Following a press conference set in the present year, we are taken back to 1997 where we meet Pauline and Jack, then at university, whose fraught relationship will form the emotional backbone of the plot. In a series of snapshots, past and present, the play attempts to give context to Pauline’s decision, in 2018, of whether to run for the Labour leadership. The once-lovers take divergent paths: Pauline becomes a doctor, while Jack chooses the life of a career politician.

While the concept of such movement through time could have been interesting, the reality was that each scene seemed utterly disconnected from the other. This stunted the character development of the lead role, Pauline, which was stilted at best and non-existent at worst. Nevertheless, Alex Hassell as Pauline’s semi-love-interest, Jack Gould, gave one of the more compelling performances. Although, it must be said that his was the role intended for the audience to dislike, which arguably tends to be the easier gig. One of the more bizarre roles in the play was that of Pauline’s alcoholic mother. Her only purpose seemed to be to die, with the view to adding some depth to Pauline’s character. Unfortunately, due to the afore mentioned format of the play, this tragic chapter in Pauline’s life (which could have been a fascinating insight into the mental state of the lead) was only explored in isolation and not mentioned again, leading us to question the relevance of that particular thread of the story.

‘I’m Not Running’ clearly had a lot to say about party politics. The inside-joke style commentary on the idiosyncrasies at play within the Labour party was quite clearly written by lefty-liberals, for lefty-liberals. As members of the play’s intended audience we could appreciate the humour to a degree, we were left disappointed at how it rang more as thinly-veiled allegory than poignant political commentary. It was all just a bit obvious. Overall it could have done with being more true to life – based on real events – or further from it: an abstract political landscape. Instead, it seems to occupy an awkward middle ground that meant it lacked punch, and missed the mark.

As we’re sure won’t come as much of a shock at this point, we don’t recommend going to see this particular work. However, at £15 per ticket it is very reasonably priced, and we did have a lovely evening at the theatre. We don’t want to give the impression that it was a complete train wreck of a production; our issues with it may have been exacerbated by the high hopes instilled in us by the previously mentioned Facebook ad. Clearly a product of the political feelings of some (on the left), ‘I’m Not Running’ failed to strike the right chord with us – but perhaps it will for you.

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