A scene from chariots of fire at Hampstead Theatre
Published: 24 May, 2012
by LAUREN GEISLER
Chariots Of Fire
Mike Bartlett’s stage adaptation of Chariots of Fire is just the ticket to get you in the sporting spirit, even if you missed out on getting a seat at the Games.
Following the lives of British sprinters in the 1924 Paris Olympics, the story covers the emotive themes of faith, family, and friendship.
As part of the London 2012 festival, the BFI have funded a July re-release of the Oscar-winning Brit flick.
The tale of determination, strength, and dreams of British Olympic gold is ripe for retelling in the run up to the summer.
James McArdle is perfectly cast as charismatic English Jewish Cambridge student Harold Abrahams, determined to prove himself in the face of perceived anti-Semitism.
Jack Lowden plays his team-mate and track rival, the devoutly Christian Eric Liddell.
Director Ed Hall makes excellent use of the space at Hampstead.
The stage has been transformed into a rotating running track, and action moves around the audience, even on to the Mezzanine level.
Rather than embrace the slow-motion finishes made famous by the 1981 film, carefully choreographed races are run in real-time. The cast are more like a team, exuding remarkable levels of fitness.
Actors run laps of the theatre without causing much chaos or noise, and get back to the dialogue without as much as a breathless gasp.
This multi-talented cast are enviable not only for their Olympian physiques, but their singing abilities too.
Laughs and musical numbers are as well-paced throughout the performance as the hurdles in a 400-metre steeplechase. A superb marching band performance provides pomp and pizazz in the second half.
Everything about Chariots of Fire engaged me. I found myself cheering as athletes bounded towards the finish line, sympathising with the motivations of aspiring champions and, of course, humming along to the Vangelis track.
A lengthy standing ovation proved I wasn’t the only one sucked in by gold medal fever.
As the production moves to the Gielgud at the end of June for a well-timed West End run, this play has clearly already earned its place on the podium.
UNTIL JUNE 16
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