THE Olympic flame is winding its way up north and the London 2012 Olympic Games are around the corner.
So what better than a smart piece of theatre inspired by the planet’s greatest sporting event to examine the lives, dedication and sacrifice of a group of athletes.
LeanerFasterStronger is touted as a darkly-humorous and provocative Sheffield Theatres and Chol Theatre co-production that explores the limits of what being human means.
Written by Kaite O’Reilly, winner of the Ted Hughes Award for Poetry in 2010, and directed by Sheffield Theatres’ creative producer Andrew Loretto, it premièred in the round in Crucible Studio last night (and runs until June 2).
Needless to say, with themes of enhancement, new science and bioengineering, and the question ‘How far would you go to be the best?’ LeanerFasterStringer is topical.
“It’s something that is perhaps unusual,” says Kaite, a former Sheffield student who returned to collaborate with Hallam University in her extensive research.
“I would say it is a play inside an exciting design with fascinating characters that are very diverse and whose story we follow through the evening.
“We have characters who are athletes and others we follow at a sports conference where they are talking around sport. We are looking at a side of athletes we don’t usually see; the pressure put on them, their family lives, psychological and emotional obstacles they have to overcome to be working at such a high level.”
LeanerFasterStronger forms part of Extraordinary Moves, an arts and science partnership between Chol, Hallam University and iMove, Yorkshire’s Cultural Olympiad programme.
It is brought to life by four young performance artists doubling as multiple characters within a set enhanced by interactive media artist Shanaz Gulzar.
Andrew previously directed Lives In Art on the main stage for the Crucible 40th anniversary celebrations. “
“In a way we’re going for massive images in an intimate way. We hope the audience will feel they’re joining in the conversations with the cast. They’ve got to be able to turn on the spin of a coin.
“If you enjoy plays, it’s a play; if you enjoy performance art, it’s got aspects of that. If you like story-telling, it tells a story.
“If you enjoy a good night out it’s going to be an hour and 10 minutes of I hope exciting debate and exploration of subject matter which is really current in the news in terms of ethics in sport – what it means to be the perfect human being.”
Andrew says ‘fantastic wordsmith’ Kaite was a natural choice to write the play.
“But I am the least sporty person in the world,” she admits.
“It can sound quite dry in its brief – the future of sports and human enhancements – but I said yes immediately.”
Particularly as it’s in a year when records will be broken by people who seem to evolve like the latest iPad.
“In human terms it sounds almost science fiction, how far can we go? But actually the technology is here now.
“What do you do when you’re an athlete who has dedicated your life since you were younger than eight years of age with investment from your family into being in the top three in the world?
“What happens when naturally you are ageing, maybe you have injury, this incredible threat to your career?
“You may not have a ‘usual’ childhood and then it reaches a point where all that might be over by the time you’re in your early 20s. What do you do then?”
Kaite, who will run a workshop for aspiring playwrights on Tuesday from 6pm, interviewed Olympians current and former in all sorts of disciplines as part of her research.
“The more we looked into it the more excited we got.
“It’s so filled with emotional highs and lows.”