Pilot Theatre brings The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner forward in time to the aftermath of last year’s riots. Its star talks to Laura Davis
ELLIOT BARNES-WORRELL is busy minding his words. He is trying to explain his thoughts about the thousands of rioters who smashed, looted, destroyed and burned their way across London in summer 2011, sparking copycat uprisings in cities including Liverpool.
He is keen not to appear sympathetic, yet can understand how the riots came about.
“But saying you understand the riots is like saying you understand the meaning of life,” he says, partially retracting his earlier statement.
“In our modern age we are victims of violent media messages telling us what we need to buy to be socially acceptable.
“Especially in deprived areas, what is seen as what you need to be cool – the right trainers, the right jacket – is all priced out of their range. Then it’s all put behind glass. It’s no wonder that eventually that glass will get smashed. I thought it was inevitable.”
The subject is relevant, not just because at 21 Barnes-Worrell can clearly remember the pressures on young people to have the latest piece of kit, but because his character in Pilot Theatre’s new production of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner finds himself embroiled in last year‘s London riots.
Bafta winner and Olivier nominee Roy Williams (Clubland, Sucker Punch) has brought Alan Silitoe’s 1962 film, based on his own short story, forward in time.
Barnes-Worrell is Colin Smith, the borstal boy played by Tom Courtenay in the film, who finds himself the prize runner at his youth offenders institution.
Although the period has changed, the social problems the play explores have not, and most of the dialogue is taken straight from the original.