REVIEW: I’m Not Running, National Theatre ✭✭✭

Jennifer Christie reviews I’m Not Running by David Hare now playing at the Lyttelton at the National Theatre.

I'm Not Running review National Theatre

Sian Brooke in I’m Not Running. Photo: Mark Douet


I’m Not Running
Lyttelton at the National Theatre
9 October 2018
3 Stars
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I’m Not Running is currently in its debut season in the Lyttelton Theatre. It is written by David Hare, a stalwart of British writing since 1970 and joins others in his political drama oeuvre such as the much vaunted The Power of Yes.

This play holds the promise of being epic but from the writing to the design it struggles to fill the space provided. There is entertainment value in the snappy one-liners and there is some political statement on the issue of a social climate of political scepticism however there is not enough depth in the story to make this play epic.

I'm Not Running National Theatre

Sian Brooke and Amaka Okafor in I’m Not Running. Photo: Mark Douet

Contained within the box marked ‘political discourse’ there is also a study of two broken relationships and their echo over the decades: young love gone wrong as well as a dysfunctional mother and daughter relationship. Pauline Gibson is definitely running away from her past even if she is not running for political pre-selection.

Sian Brooke rarely leaves the stage in her role as Pauline Gibson. This is a major feat of endurance as most scenes are two handers and the action swings between times and story lines. Brooke handles the highly charged scenes with passion but really shines in the more energetic and glib dialogue. Her characterization is as charismatic as all good politicians are meant to be.

I'm Not Running National Theatre

Sian Brooke and Alex Hassell in I’m Not Running. Photo: Mark Douet

Jack Gould is her university lover who ends up being her political rival. Gould is portrayed by Alex Hassell as an insecure man behind the veneer of a pillar of the party line. Hassell delivers the smarmy lines with an elegance that shows Gould’s lack of comprehension as to the exposing nature of his words.

These two characters are complex and yet the depth of them is hidden behind layers of words and plot and difficult to fully embrace.

I'm Not Running review National Theatre

Joshua McGuire in I’m Not Running. Photo: Mark Douet

This is not the case with role of political spin doctor Sandy Mynott played sympathetically by Joshua McGuire. With Mynott there is no ambiguity but were the details of his sexual preferences really necessary to the advancement of the plot?

The set design by Ralph Myers supports the notion of containment. On a cavernous stage stands a concrete bunker on a revolve. The size of the box effectively cuts the stage space down to less than half. As the scenes change, the set revolves and a new room is revealed. It’s a clever device with the time taken to revolve very adequately covered by Jon Driscoll with his projected images of news broadcasts or the atmospheric music provided by Alan John.

It’s possibly a step too far to think that the removal of the box at the end of the play is meant to symbolize the moment when Gibson finally stops running from the past in order to run to her future.

All in all I’m Not Running is pleasant enough but there are more pressing concerns in British politics that need to be artistically treated.

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