Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and Yasmeen Khan, digital production Going The Distance, directed by Felicity Montagu is a touching and often hilarious look at the plight of local theatres during the pandemic.
March 2020 saw theatres across the UK forced to close their doors, with no real promise of reopening in sight, the fight for survival well and truly began.
Going The Distance introduces us the players of Matchborough Community Theatre, desperate to survive and on an incredibly limited budget a decision is made to create their very own version of the Wizard of Oz; offering opportunities for local residents to get involved and come together to create something magical, which will in turn secure the future of the much-loved theatre.
Well, that’s the theory, in practice complex relationships, mismatched ideas and a wannabe diva who is more Hollyoaks than Hollywood provide a recipe for a hilariously bumpy ride. Add to this a genuine warmth and poignancy as the impact of the pandemic is seen through various character’s eyes and this heart-warming piece begins to feel much deeper than at first you may have anticipated.
Head of Marketing Rae is portrayed brilliantly by Sarah Hadland, her eye-rolling frustration at the less tech savvy members of the team clear for all to see. Penny Ryder delivers a touching performance as Maggie, demonstrating perfectly how a theatre is much more than just bricks and mortar. Her monologue towards the end of the piece beautifully reminding us of the importance of local theatres not just as performance spaces but as a place at the very heart of the community; this opportunity for community creativity is wonderfully displayed via Gail’s journey, delivered perfectly by Emma McDonald, complimented beautifully by Merch Husey’s sensitive Kem.
Bickering former couple Frank and Vic, (Matthew Kelly and Shobna Gulati) add a familiar reality to the piece while Nicole Evans as Billie is an all too recognisable character for anyone who has ever been involved in a community project, brilliantly written, and fantastically delivered.
Going The Distance is a cleverly crafted reflection on the past 18 months and the far-reaching effects of the pandemic. It’s wittily told while importantly the laughs don’t detract from its thought-provoking poignancy. At around 75 mins straight through Going the Distance is a real love letter to local theatres and the individual characters who make them what they are, a place for all to feel entertained, involved and uplifted.
You can watch Going the Distance online from Monday 4th October until Sunday 17th October, tickets available here.