Review: Run, Rebel
Run, Rebel at York Theatre Royal is a show you should be running to go see.
And what a perfect show to see yesterday on International Women’s Day, as it brilliantly showcases women fighting for their dreams, standing up for themselves, and believing they can live the life they want.
Run, Rebel is at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 March.
The play, adapted from Manjeet Mann’s multi award-winning novel of the same name, tells the story of Amber Rai – a young girl trying to define her place in the world as she navigates a difficult home life and finds sanctuary through her one escape of running.
Amber is trapped – by her family’s rules, by their expectations, by her own fears. But on the running track she is completely free.
It’s time to start a revolution: for her mother, for her sister, for herself.
The show is a co-production between Pilot Theatre, Mercury Theatre Colchester, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Derby Theatre and York Theatre Royal, and follows the success of acclaimed productions Noughts and Crosses, Crongton Knights and The Bone Sparrow.
The theatres formed a partnership in 2018 to develop, produce and present theatre for younger audiences.
And they’ve created another moving and must-see play that is accessible for all ages.
The cast is small at just six actors, with most of the actors playing multiple characters throughout the play.
At the heart of the play is Amber, played by the spectacular Jessica Kaur. Her performance is electrifying and exhilarating, and we are rooting for Amber from the start as we watch her try and break free to live the life she wants to. Amber’s journey through creating her own revolution, not only for herself but for her mother and sister too, is incredibly moving to witness.
The rest of the cast are similarly fantastic. As Amber’s mother, Asha Kingsley (Surinder and ensemble) pulled at the heartstrings – particularly in one moment when she writes her name in English for the first time. Hannah Millward provides some light-hearted moments as the spirited Tara, and Kiran Raywilliams is especially endearing as the lovestruck David.
Simran Kular (Ruby, Beena, and ensemble) is a stand out performance as she transforms completely between her multiple roles, and the snippets of Ruby’s story that we get is one I would have loved to have seen explored further. Pushpinder Chani (Harbans and ensemble) tackles a complex role as Amber’s alcoholic and abusive father with genuinely human and heartbreaking moments.
The set (Debbie Duru) is simple but effective, transforming the stage from a family home, to a school, to a running track with a few clever prop positions. I loved the use of projections (Daniel Denton) and how they often showed us Amber’s inner thoughts.
The play doesn’t shy away from its difficult themes of domestic violence, alcoholism, discrimination, and bullying and they are shown on stage with such care and sympathy towards the characters. It shows how hurt people can hurt people, and how that can come from cycles of violence and maintaining toxic patriarchal values.
But despite this, Run, Rebel is full of so much joy. As the play accelerates towards its end there are several punch-the-air moments – you leave the theatre feeling a little lighter than when you came in and the resounding message of ‘it’s never too late to learn how to love’ will staying ringing in your heart.
This is a play that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible – so run, don’t walk to see this at York Theatre Royal.
Run, Rebel is at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 11 March. Tickets start from £15 and are available via the York Theatre Royal website.