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THEATRE REVIEW: I'm Not Running, National Theatre Live, South Holland Centre, Spalding

David Hare's play I'm Not Running is an example of why the Washington Post newspaper described him as "the premiere political dramatist writing in English".

On this occasion, it is as if Hare has taken the experiences of leading Labour politicians, such as Yvette Cooper, Rachel Reeves, Harriet Harman and Margaret Beckett, and put them altogether in one stage play.

At its heart is qualified doctor Pauline Gibson (Sian Brooke; Doctor Foster) who becomes leader of a campaign to save her Northamptonshire hospital from closure.

Sian Brooke (Pauline Gibson) and Joshua McGuire (Sandy Mynott) in David Hare's I'm Not Running. Photo by Mark Douet.
Sian Brooke (Pauline Gibson) and Joshua McGuire (Sandy Mynott) in David Hare's I'm Not Running. Photo by Mark Douet.

Nearly two decades later, Gibson is seen agonising over whether to shed her independent streak to join the Labour Party and run for the leadership.

The problem is that it reignites old romantic flames with her university boyfriend Jack Gould (Alex Hassell), a product of old Labour stock equivalent to the late Tony Benn and his son Hilary.

The "will she, won't she" dynamic of I'm Not Running is what made the play so maddeningly compelling, along with its backstory of Gibson having to juggle her medical studies with caring for her alcoholic mother Blaise (Liza Sadovy).

By using flashbacks, the audience is given a full picture of the factors behind Gibson's rise to political activism, including her ideological split with Gould over NHS reforms which threaten its founding principle of "good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth".

Another motivating factor for Gibson is her relationship with Gould's political assistant Meredith (Amaka Okafor) who tragically dies in Gibson's arms from an undiscovered heart condition.

It is this tragedy, along with her own experience of family life, that ultimately makes up Gibson's mind to say "I'm running".

Review by Winston Brown


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