Review: Tetra-Decathlon by Showroom

A beautiful, athletic piece of theatre about trying and failing and trying again

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Tetra-Decathlon by Showroom. Image: Mihaela Bodlovich
Published 15 Aug 2018

This is a lovely, affecting piece on what it means to take on a seemingly outlandish task, to try, to fail, to try again. Life, you see, is about finding "your thing", and however daft that thing is, there's meaning in it because it's yours. To that end, Laura Hendry signed up to compete in the 2017 world tetradecathlon championships, having never run on a track, jumped into a sandpit, or hurled a spear.

To the uninitiated (that's most of us) the tetradecathlon is the most gruelling of all the 'athons – 14 track and field events over two days. Hendry, in an energetic solo performance, leads us through the highs and lows of her training and competition. There's some clear gold medals here: Hendry's impersonation of her gruff Scottish coach, one leg permanently up on a bench (the one-sided conversations work extremely well to maintain pace and avoid clunky dialogue); the illuminated timing display sets the scene well and give some sense of jeapardy as the big day approaches; a well-weighted middle section that moves this medium-distance event from early enthusiasm to exhaustion. Scott Twynholm's score is minimalist and evocative.

Some of the blocking is a bit inexplicable – movement which seems designed only to do something rather than nothing. Moving the lockers about, in particular, doesn't really achieve much. At times, also, this flirts a bit with Chariots of Fire-style winner worship, Hendry's final (implied) victory in the coach's cup giving her more pleasure than feels comfortable in a piece which emphasises self-validation. Hendry is a winner, cup or not.