Runners

“You can disappear into the timelessness of motion. But what for?” Runners asks this question boldly, for a piece straddling dance and circus. These genres take for granted the expressive value of movement. Humans are relentlessly drawn to push our limits – some of us express that on stage, in cyr wheels and acrobatics; others, simply on the treadmill. A few, like most of the seven performers in Runners, do both at the same time. But it can seem a little wrong to ask ‘what for’ too directly.

Runners takes for granted the human love of speed, acknowledging its dangers alongside its allure

The runners don’t shy away from this question, but they don’t answer it directly either, and in doing so elevate this work above its constituent parts. The stories they tell are of failure and pain – accidents, falls, restlessness, and fear. But the actions they perform – joyful running, beautiful and relational dance, acrobatics, a daring cyr wheel act, and some beautiful singing – run absolutely counter to that story. There is no evidence of fear in the physical performances of the company, even as they do things they have described in detail as having gone terribly wrong before on the exact custom-built giant treadmill on which most of the performance takes place. In fact, many of the acts are simply playful, and relish the simple visual joys of acceleration or flying confetti. Together, these painful stories are transformed into stories of resilience, built-in in the way they don’t shy away from speaking and even singing through their heavy breathing.

In addition to the stellar physical performances of Ethan Law, Šárka Říhová, Jakub Slovák, and Aneta Bočková, and vocals by Aneta; two live musicians add a live score on violin, keyboard, and vocals that elevates the physicality beyond itself and knits together a performance that doesn’t necessarily cohere on its own. Veronika Linhartová and Jakub Ruschka support throughout, and get a well-deserved and well-earned moment center stage to celebrate their performance. More joyful than precise, Runners takes for granted the human love of speed, acknowledging its dangers alongside its allure; anyone who has felt the wind in their hair will be able to relate.

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Reviews by Alex Bailey Dillon

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Award-winning contemporary circus company returns with an extraordinary show looking at the hectic pace of today’s world. In a unique set design featuring a giant treadmill, four performers and two musicians mix dance, running, cyr-wheel acrobatics and original live music, while running almost a whole marathon. This UK debut for Runners marks the company’s fourth Edinburgh appearance following sell-out seasons in 2011, 2015 and 2017. Best Czech Theatre 2020 and 2021 (Theatre Critics Awards). Total Theatre Award nominee. ‘No wonder this low-fi, anarchic circus have been hoovering up awards wherever they stumble’ (Scotland on Sunday).

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