No Frills Theatre Company present Run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, examining the summer of a seventeen year old gay Jewish boy. Jonathan Smeed makes his Fringe debut as central character Yonni in this one man show from Stephen Laughton.
Run sees Yonni on his last day of high school, about to begin a summer that will mark his first love. The only one Yonni wants to be around is Adam and with him the seventeen year old begins to embark on a summer that will delve into romance, familial conflict, and perhaps more surprisingly an adventure involving a beached whale.
Jonathan Smeed exerts a real skill in his portrayal of Yonni. Crafting an impeccable sense of imagery, vividly helping us build a picture of the young man and his surroundings – from moments in the family kitchen to the buzz and excitement of the last day of school. Smeed is a dynamic performer, capturing our attention without relying on traditional theatrical supports such as lighting, props, or sound effects. We simply see him take centre stage at Lauriston Halls and fluently launch into nearly an hour’s worth of prose.
Yonni’s journey is one that captures the effervescent emotion of a first love. He’s excitable, obsessive, and lustful – bubbling with the plethora of confusing feelings an early crush brings. His description is vibrant and at points unclear if Yonni describes reality or a woozy, heightened take on his romance. Whilst Yonni and Adam’s relationship has moments of conventionality from its build-up and early encounters, it can also verge on creatively eccentric such as a curious description of Yonni and Adam rescuing a beached whale. Laughton’s writing is passionate and emotive, channelled fittingly by Smeed.
Run impresses by its exploration of a Jewish protagonist with Smeed launching into Hebrew in occasional moments whilst also capturing Jewish tradition. As the narrative progresses, exploration of a tense bout of antisemitism in the play’s final moments is unsettlingly tense, captured impressively by the young actor – making way for an emotive finale.
Whilst Yonni is a young gay protagonist of the Jewish faith, it would have been intriguing to see how the two lined-up slightly more explicitly. Delving slightly deeper into Yonni’s sexuality and the links with his faith in more detail may have provided some further food for thought. We get these elements explored on a slightly more separate level such as a scene where Yonni travels to meet Adam perusing Grindr as he does so.
Run impresses through Laughton’s vivid writing which delves into the emotions of early love, whilst Jonathan Smeed’s performance captures this in a captivating dynamic fashion.