There are signs that things are not quite right in the town where the character Nina (Issy Crutchley) lives. She loves playing out with her brother Taz (Jago Wainwright) but damage to the park has made it unusable and at certain times there is a curfew stopping her going out at all. This is the way Francesca Murray-Fuentes’s exciting play The Runner begins.
She is only twelve when her father disappears and her mother, increasingly on edge about events, decides it's best her children get out of the country. She gives Taz documents that include a route plan and sends them on their way.
Much to Nina’s irritation, they are joined by FC (Harry Camilleri) who got the name FC as a result of being the Farting Champion, an ability he continues to demonstrate as they travel.
Their journey involves Nina narrowly escaping an attempt to traffic her, all of them capsizing in an overcrowded boat and some occasional running to escape the authorities trying to prevent them crossing borders.
But en route they also get unexpected help from a dog named Lemon, a very confident fifteen-year-old girl named Tucks (Flora Tucker) and an unidentified woman on a train who rescues them from a very suspicious official.
The story is always clear and engaging. It is often amusing but never dodges the real dangers facing unaccompanied children. The characters are likeable, and believable.
Civil wars in Syria and other places continue to drive people into exile. There are over 100,000 unaccompanied children in Europe claiming political asylum and more children who haven’t even registered.
This important and entertaining play gives us some idea of the risky journey many of them may have taken.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna