Multitasking can be very difficult: Gerald Ford was famously said to not be able to walk and chew gum. So conducting an emotionally-wrought dramatic monologue while running at a fair pace in a treadmill would leave most of us gasping for breath at the very thought of it. But Shauna Macdonald rises to it with ease, showing an outstanding performance that drew whoops and cheers at the cathartic conclusion.
Jane is your average young mum, living with her partner and young son in suburban Scotland. After suffering a devastating clinical diagnosis, Jane takes up running after a period of reflection, and soon improves to the extent that she’s taking part in the San Antonio ‘ultrathon’, a 110 mile route through the scorching desert. We start at the beginning of this torturous race, and the story is told via flashbacks and interjections. In addition, Macdonald has some help from a brilliantly used digital screen: for example when Wikipedia is mentioned as a source of health information and the website flashes before the audience. A helpful running tool also adds a sense of eeriness as it morphs into a modern version of 2001’s Hal. This is helped by the discordant music, which fuzzes menacingly as Jane’s protestations get ever more stressed.
In the wrong hands, some of the plot elements – running as a tool of escape, the problems of obsession – could seem trite. It is to MacDonald’s immense credit that through her delivery her world comes alive. Her delivery alternates between defiance and wry humour, and wrings every ounce of emotion possible from the script without putting a foot wrong. It’s a sterling performance and one that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.