“I’m not going to speak” writes Hannah Moss on a whiteboard, silently, before wiping it clean, “It’s easier”. So begins a show that depends entirely on the difficulty of talking about grief. Articulating emotions is tricky at the best of times, when attempting to talk about the loss of a loved one most of us find ourselves unable. Moss found herself in such a position several years ago when her father died of cancer, and it is through this very inability to talk about her grief that this show was born. The show comes from the silence of grief, yet it’s one of the loudest pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen, the rebuttal of conventional modes of spoken language allowing Moss to utilise an entirely different kind of speech altogether using physical theatre, whiteboards and a variety of props to form intricate new methods of expression in a profoundly impressive production.
Visually stunning, deeply moving and perfectly executed this is a show that invites us to celebrate life and that’s about as good as any show can get.
The incredibly distinctive form of the play is immensely inventive; it’s as if a comic book strip has come to life before our eyes. Small signs guide our gazes throughout, both Moss and her partner David Ralfe converse with whiteboard messages, and direct our attention with fold out signs that often bring comical twists to everyday objects in moments of intense emotion.
The entire piece appears as a beautiful homage to Moss’s father as we watch his memory come to life in the hands of the wonderfully dexterous Ralfe who doubles superbly as both Moss’s father and mother. The love that courses through this show is overwhelming and most of the audience are in tears by the end, but they’re tears of joy, we laugh with Moss as much as we cry with her. The clever interweaving of narratives ensures that we see as much life and joy in this production as pain and grief, the upset and pain come deliciously countered with the memories of happier times, from simple moments spent together in a park, to the tale of how Moss’s parents meet.
Love becomes joyful and vigorous scribbling as Moss and Ralfe take on the roles of Moss’s mother and father respectively, attempting to get out the right words on their whiteboards, the memory injects a surge of love and comedy that works beautifully when countered with the struggle of bereavement. The tale of love and hope is intimately intertwined with a tale of great loss and mourning. At times it’s almost unnerving how open Moss is, her honesty about her father and her various coping mechanisms for her grief is heart-rending, from becoming addicted to the TV to crazy dancing at university. This show is intensely affecting, yes the majority of it may be constructed with paper and pens but it’s a format that allows a degree of concentration and attention that produces a passionate theatrical experience, even the act of writing seems to become a performance as we wait breathlessly for every next instalment.
Moss’s whiteboard becomes a vivid and painful point of contract, each erasure a tender physical movement that gives the written words a new power, the words feel stranger somehow, more solid, and through this solidity On The Run have managed to bring to bear a triumphantly optimistic portrayal of death in the shadow of life, whereby Moss can stand at the end with a smile, with the recognition that yes her father died, but that he also lived. Visually stunning, deeply moving and perfectly executed this is a show that invites us to celebrate life and that’s about as good as any show can get.