When life throws you a massive challenge you often want to just say: “What the… I can’t cope with this.” When actress and singer Louise Breckon-Richards lost her voice due to a rare condition, and faced surgery to repair her vocal chords, she feared she would disappear in her own future.
In her one-woman show, Can You Hear Me Running?, written by Jo Harper and Jaw Rattle productions, Louise shares her real-life experiences of how she turned to running the London Marathon to help her cope. As a mum to two boys, Louise felt helpless when she couldn’t speak. “I needed something in my life that was just for me – some time where I could escape all the issues I was dealing with. When I had surgery, I wasn’t allowed to talk for seven days, and then only for five minutes per day after that. As a mum to two young boys, this was impossible.”
Running became Louise’s solace. Many people who go to the show may not have run, ever. If, however, you are a runner, expect to laugh and cry as you join Louise on her marathon journey. She expresses the ups and downs of the training, and race day, with such subtle humour and depth that will leave you in tears. As she questions herself and her life, it touches on a part deep inside all of us.
Jo Harper carefully weaves together Louise’s blogs to take us back to her past in Wales, inspired as a child by her beloved Grandfather, her Da, back into the consultant’s room as she tried to find a ‘cure’, then on the runs where she felt she could be anyone and do anything. When she was running it didn’t matter that Louise couldn’t speak.
Not knowing what to expect from a one-woman show about taking up running to cope because she couldn’t speak, I was left feeling shocked. I could have never known what she went through, but seeing how our identity can come under threat when something we take for granted is taken away from us, left me questioning – and appreciating – the things that define me.
The script is powerful, both simple and emotional, and bought to life with piano from Dan Glover, playing those all-so-important songs from Louise’s past, training and race day. Louise let’s us into her soul. Her struggles could be ours.
Louise’s intimate, funny and clever portrayal of the people who touched her life, and her response to them not only gets under your skin, it sinks its warm fingers deep into your heart. Louise’s story is inspiring and shows how exercise, and running, can play such a crucial part in everyone’s mental health.
The play is being shown at The Pleasance, London, until 23 October. To book, visit pleasance.co.uk.