This gentle comedy examining the way theatres have had to fight for their survival during the pandemic is wonderfully heartwarming.
Written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and Yasmeen Khan, Going the Distance is an affectionate and gentle comedy that highlights the struggles that theatres faced in the wake of lockdown (and in the case of so many still struggling) and how they have to adapt and deal with the numerous costs to keep a venue open.
Going the Distance follows the fortunes and chaos of Matchborough Community Theatre as those involved with the theatre battle to try and save the venue by attempting to put on on a fundraising production of ‘Wizard’ (inspired by but not based on The Wizard of Oz). But of course, there are many obstacles along the way – from tense relationships to the potential of going over budget that many of those working in the industry can really relate to. But beneath the comedy it is a heartwarming portrait of how people in theatre are able to come together and do whatever it takes to put on a show.
The script is filled with plenty of inside jokes that those working in the industry can relate to with regards to putting on a show, but at the same time it is still open and accessible for those who don’t with its wonderfully diverse range of characters. Filloux-Bennett and Khan have created a play that is warm and entertaining from start to finish, yet at the same time highlights the struggles that many people have gone through during lockdown ensuring that it is completely relatable.
Directed by Felicity Montagu, the production really captures the the spirit of theatre and the joy that it can bring to so many – not just those watching in the audience but also those behind the scenes. This is highlighted when it seems as though the show won’t go on – but then everyone decides to make it work no matter the cost as it means too much to them all to give up. It is one of the wonderful poignant moments in the show that has been nicely framed to show how the characters may all have their differences but theatre has united them. There are plenty of other moments that have been really nicely captured – including the audition scene which really made me smile.
This being said, at times it feels as though some of the characters could have been fleshed out more to show how the community itself came together to help save the local venue. For example, I would have loved to have seen more of Sara Crowe’s Em – the radio presenter who was prying a little too close into the relationship Vic’s (Shobna Gulati) relationship with Frank (Matthew Kelly) and more could have certainly been done to involve Kem (Merch Husey). It is a shame as by bringing all of the characters in together more could have really deepened the story more.
However, Going the Distance has been well cast – featuring some wonderful performances that are delightful to watch. In particular Matthew Kelly as the increasingly exasperated Frank and Sarah Hadland as the bossy and determined Rae have some of the best moments in the show – but have excellent support from Shobna Gulati as Vic and Penny Ryder as Maggie who both offer some of the more poignant moments in the production in an understated way that does tug at the heartstrings.
For anyone looking for some gentle and heartwarming entertainment, Going the Distance more than delivers but I was left feeling that maybe it could have been developed slightly further to give the story even more depth.
By Emma Clarendon
Going the Distance will continue to be streamed until the 17th October. To book tickets click here.