If we break a leg, we accept that time and care will work it’s magic. Unlike a lot of physical ailments, Louise Breckon’s underlying larynx condition resulted in a total repositioning of her identity, both professionally and personally. In an (almost) one-woman show portrayed in autobiographical fashion, ‘Can you hear me running’ takes the audience on ‘Loo’s’ deeply personal journey, both physically and emotionally. Re-living her experience and individual perspective of having to redefine who she is based on physical limitations, Louise takes viewers at the Pleasance on an intense yet swift tour of her anguish during this period of her life: ‘Who am I without a voice?’
Louise defined herself by her profession, and performance was (and clearly still is) an integral aspect of her identity – from childhood memories of singing with family members, to meeting her husband on set of a Shakespeare tragedy. With humour, warmth and nostalgia she addresses the audience directly and whisks them through the context of her work ‘pre-illness’, before diving into the psychological and physical repercussions of her body’s deception. To aid story telling, the scientific details of her medical condition are portrayed veraciously – and she single-handedly re-enacts various health care professionals that she encountered, providing a holistic perspective of her illness.
Although compelling, it’s difficult to wholly relate to Louise when she slips into ‘actress’ – at times over-theatrical narration jarred with the personal nature of the story she told. Although with a presumed intent to provide a softer edge, some of the humour was a little too obvious, and this could have been handled with more nuance. However, personal home footage, recordings from actual therapy sessions and authentic props helped to fully immerse the audience into ‘Louise’. Betraying the title, her sought after solace in running felt a little glossed over and lacked depth, but the limits of staging understandably could not accommodate the extent of how and why this particular activity was so significant to her.
Though aspects of ‘Can you hear me running’ are somewhat self-indulgent, overcoming limitations and adapting to situations out of one’s control are the real take-home themes. Overall, staging could have been bolder, visuals more creative, and narrative executed with more sophistication. But despite this, using the stage to express the inexpressible was inspirational to observe. To answer Loo’s final question of ‘Can you hear me?’, audiences will resound a definitive YES, albeit only briefly.
Can You Hear Me Running plays at The Pleasance until October 23rd
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