We’re living in a day whereby the taboo of mental health is gradually being challenged, well-being something we recognise as crucial moving forward. An exploration of Black mental health, supplied with the recommendation of helpful resources made possible by charity Black Minds Matter, Running with Lions pushes the topic of mental health centre stage, showcasing the impact of a family member’s diagnosis of Bipolar within a British Jamaican household.
The family network is perhaps our most important one, Running with Lions a celebration of the ups and downs of these life affirming connections. The scene set within a multi-generational household, we watch as Maxwell (Wil Johnson) and Shirley (Suzette Llewellyn) parents to Gloria (Velile Tshabalala) work to ensure all within the home runs smoothly, loving grandparents to Gloria’s daughter Imani (Ruby Barker) and parents to Joshua (Nickolia King-N’da) the traditional, long married couple a beacon of stability and faith.
Running with Lions draws heavily on spirituality, Maxwell a pastor and respected member of the community who daily seeks inspiration from scripture and the power of spirit. This a powerful support system for the entire family, whether they realise it or not. We watch an older generation, not used to talking about mental health trying their best to understand their daughter’s diagnosis, the show about their journey of understanding as much as Gloria’s navigating it. We watch Gloria and Joshua’s endearing sibling bond, Gloria and daughter Imani’s attempt at connection.
Sian Carter writes and Michael Buffong directs an honest and brave observation on mental health and grief. We gauge a family trying their best to understand one another, even if it’s tough at first and just trying to be there for one another. Sound Designer Tony Gayle ensuring music is a potent remedy for low moods and dips and morale, funk, soul, reggae painting instant smiles on faces on both the stage and audience members. Soutra Gilmour’s clever cyclical revolving masterpiece consisting of a set of stairs that form the outer layer, and a 70s inspired living room setting within its centre a perfect throwback to Maxwell and Shirley’s generation and sense of style.
Running with Lions is an intricate portrayal of a Caribbean family dealing with mental health.
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Running with Lions is currently showing until Saturday 12th March 2022 at the Lyric Hammersmith. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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