There are situations and circumstances in which if you didn’t laugh you’d cry or perhaps in Katie Arnstein’s case just freeze. She has a track record of doing that. On hearing that her mother had cancer, after she had frozen, thawed out and probably shed a tear or two she decided to apply her trade to the tragedy and make a comedy show out it, because that's what people really need in the current economic crisis.
Arnstein makes a potentially heavy subject comfortably light
The Long Run, now on at The Vault Festival, is her journey through the months of treatment her mother underwent for bowel cancer. It was the classic case of a woman being healthy, taking life in moderation and not being prone to illness, only to have the the big C bombshell land. Given that her daughter works in comedy it could have been worse. She might have had cancer somewhere less suited to generating embarrassing situations that afford opportunities for creating lavatorial laughter and anal humour. In that respect it was a horribly dark cloud with a silver lining.
The show is a tribute to her mother and the millions of people with similar conditions who go through protracted and uncomfortable treatment. It’s also about the people who live through it with them. Arnstein was no doubt a tower of strength to her mother, but we also hear the story of George. He’s one of several people she meets in Derby Hospital’s radiotherapy waiting room who are all sources of amusement, but her relationship with George becomes a friendship. After she’s made considerable fun out of him, which we’ve all enjoyed, his sad story is revealed and like Arnstein we discover he is doing something in order to live with it. In his case, despite his age, he’s decided to run a marathon and is using the hospital as his training ground. There’s much more to George and his story but what goes on the Pit stays in the Pit!
Director Bec Martin’s traverse layout has Arnstein covering every inch of the space, using the stage end as the hospital location and the rest as a running track and area for general banter. Arnstein makes a potentially heavy subject comfortably light. She smiles for most of the time and adopts an air of having just invited us round to hear her stories and have a good laugh as the humour flows from her speedy, unrelenting delivery, some witty asides and her numerous funny descriptions of situations and characters.
Consequently the time flies by and before we know where we are the race is won and we have gained a heartwarming insight into a very delicate and difficult subject that shows the power of love over adversity.