Race To Be Seen: Graham, the World's Fastest Blind Runner
With the Tokyo Paralympics in full swing, it is apposite that Mark Wheeller’s Race To Be Seen is released this week in the definitive version of this inspiring play.
It was originally written for Epping Youth Theatre in 1984 and began Mark’s career working with young people in creating verbatim theatre. His expertise in this genre has resulted in garnering a plethora of awards and plays that are performed by youth theatres and schools and have tours with professional theatre-in-education companies throughout the UK and internationally. Many have become set texts for exam boards at GCSE and are widely regarded as exemplars of this unique style of documentary storytelling.
In this revised and expanded edition, published by Salamander Street, there is an extensive introduction to the history of the process of making the play and the challenging opportunities it offers to the cast and in particular the actor playing the main character.
Graham Salmon MBE was the fastest blind runner who set a world record for the 100 metres and gained a gold medal in the 400 metres in the 1984 summer Paralympics in Los Angeles. A remarkable achievement.
Born in 1952, his parents became concerned about his sight as a baby. He was eventually diagnosed at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London with an incurable eye cancer and had to traumatically have both eyes removed, with devastating consequences for all. However, this did not dampen his determination and spirit to succeed and have his name in the Guinness Book of Records.
His early school days as a weekly boarder at the Sunshine Home for the Blind was not particularly positive. In secondary school, he formed a band (the Agreeables) and played a twelve-string guitar with various degrees of success, but his father commented at the noise, “the disagreeables!” He also ran a bookies for bets on the horses, much to the school’s angst, and consequently was expelled.
There is a moving scene that explores Graham’s difficulties in finding a job, but he eventually secures a career with the Abbey National. Where he excelled was in sport, be it athletics, golf—including a hole in one at the British Blind Golf Open in Fareham—or in his many successful track events.
Mark had developed a sincere lasting friendship with Graham, but sadly his cancer returned resulting in his death in 1999.
This new edition, with helpful advice on both casting and staging with the music for the songs has links to a teacher resource pack. It offers the opportunity to create inventive physical theatre and it is a play that I would highly recommended for any secondary school’s production.
Reviewer: Robin Strapp