This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
“Running On Empty is the story of a man, a woman and their encounters over time – travelling through dreams, fears and jagged memories.” Perhaps the show description is the best way to convey the intention of the production. It is a piece of physical theatre interspersed with broken snippets of dialogue, just enough to provide a tag to describe the action. But it is not always clear as to the intention behind the choreography.
There are passages about dreams, death and floating on water. There is love and parting in both thoughtful and ponderous passages and the more violent, aggressive and sexual. Just to cover all the bases, there is even a whimsical section with a trout and an otter. The structure of a slow piece following a more energetic one feels like an enforced necessity though it does somewhat frame the elusive narrative.
The choreography does help when the word fails. The movement has a fluidity to it to go with the contrasting moods. Greig Cooke and Antonia Grove are well matched physically and their movements have a great sensitivity to the space. It is an accomplished and, at times, highly physical performance. Gove also has a beautiful singing voice and her first haunting song, discreetly accompanied by the guitar and harmonica, sets the tone for the rest of the show.
A variety of music by the songwriter Lee Ross and music composition by Scott Smith never cease to be the perfect accompaniment to the action. Smith also performs on stage and joins in as a significant third presence in the performance, rather than merely contributing musically. There is excellent work by Beky Stoddart with her simple yet highly atmospheric lighting. The focused beams of light sketch out the boundaries and beautifully highlight the action.
The work can come across as overly esoteric but it never ceases to be intriguing to look at. The fragmented nature of the show keeps the suspense and anticipation and altogether is a highly competent production.
Photo: Tim Copsey