solo head

Flying Solo

Birmingham Rep Door

*****

RUNNING a marathon, by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, is a tough feat. For Manjeet Mann, training for her London Marathon required much more than physical training.

In her autobiographical one-woman show, Mann shares her openly brave story with us, about using running to help with depression.

Hailing from Birmingham, Mann has a charm that grips the audience with her every word. Her warming persona and jolly countenance at the beginning of the show is instantly warming.

Her determination is impressive which sets off an inspiration that oozes. Mann also has a background in personal training and with this, she has powerfully married her two skills of sport and artistry to create a truly profound and touching story.

In her cleverly written piece, she displays a wonderful passion for her training regime, packed with research and dedication but also reminds us about the importance of mental health, by addressing the issue with a brave and personal account of her own past.

Mann teaches us that running the London Marathon requires that the training of the mind is just as important, if not more so as the physical body. In her self-written script, it is clear that her deeply emotional childhood has its effects within her adult life.

She is open about the stories of her past and the events that were a contributing factor to her depression - admirable to watch. Mann is unafraid to tell of the darkness of what was before and uses her striking ability to inform us of the impact as a way of moving forward.

The performance itself is driven by Mann’s superb command of the stage. Her script is second to none, with a rhythmic and conversational tone that draws us in instantly, not to mention her warming and bouncy Brummie lilt has a charm of its own. Her acting is more than impressive, showing us her every emotion, without holding back.

It is certainly a brave prospect, especially for an autobiographical piece. She takes on the personas of characters that shaped her childhood, breaking into flashbacks of scenes with her sisters and people at school. The performance is led by the story of training for the London Marathon in less than three hours, but underneath is the crux. It is about dealing with mental health in the best way possible, and perhaps finding the ways to forgive those who were not entirely supportive.

She tells us of her childhood upbringing. As the youngest of four sisters, we see and hear her interactions and look into the sibling relationships throughout the years. Living with a drunken, abusive father and a mother whose death was a result of the relationship; Mann tells us the impact this had, both as a child, becoming a school bully to a classmate, and now as an adult, in which all sisters put the blame on each other.

We flit through one time zone to the other, as we see her in the middle of running the marathon, but flashing back in her memory to her darkest moments, and all the while her time increasing and her body depleting.

Mann gives a fantastically brave account of living with depression and trauma, including the struggles that triggered it. Her trauma within childhood affected the mental health of the woman she is today and Mann shows us the best way that she could move forward.

Much like a marathon, going through a mental illness is a personal journey. Mann’s touching and poignant production shows that through her experience, she is able to help others in similar situations and is not afraid to speak about her own journey in order for others to overcome theirs.

Elizabeth Halpin

26-02-16 

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