Some of the most surprising journeys turn out to be the most fulfilling, and although the yellow VW camper van parked in front of the New Wolsey Theatre doesn’t leave the site, in Laura Mugride’s Running On Air audiences are taken on a journey of self discovery and immense charm.
The camper van is both a character in the show and also the venue, five people at a time are seated inside for a journey into Mugridge’s life and the fraternity of camper van enthusiasts on the open road. Each of the ‘passengers’ are assigned tasks, time keeper, map reader, DJ in charge of the vans tape deck and even Laura’s husband Tom.
The camper van was a wedding present to the couple and christened Joni and is the real co-star of the production. We hear how Joni’s fan belt broke down on a journey from Edinburgh, how she safely conveyed Laura and Tom to the Scottish highlands for Laura’s 30th birthday and then we passengers are all transported to a Cornish bay. Along the journey there are communal sing songs, a jam season with toothbrushes, wooden spoons and a biscuit jar bongo and a real engagement for all involved.
The close proximity to both performer and fellow audience obviously creates an intimate atmosphere but Mugridge carefully draws her audience into the story, treating strangers as long lost friends. It’s all so engaging that one is completely taken along for the ride.
As well as a celebration of the wonder of Joni herself, it’s also a deeply personal recollection of Laura and Toms love, a love of comedy and performing and, in a moving and deeply honest look at the terror of stage fright a fascinating insight into the courage it takes to stand up and perform. While Laura may say that she is building her confidence up by performing to just five people at a time, the close proximity takes a performer of real skill, and her warm personality can’t help but win over even the most cynical audience member.
Sometimes its not the final destination that is important and you learn more on the actual journey but Running On Air should be on everyone’s theatrical itinerary.