From the moment Vangelis’s iconic music floods the auditorium (brilliantly converted by Miriam Buether into a mini-stadium, complete with revolve and circular racing tracks which cut right through the audience) and the actors begin their warm up exercises, you know you’re in safe hands.
It barely matters that this fact-based account of a devout Christian Scot, Eric Liddell (Jack Lowden) and an English Jew of Lithuanian descent, Harold Abrahams (James McArdle) in the run up to the 1924 Paris Olympics has been made familiar by the movie. Hall not only incorporates snatches of very British Gilbert and Sullivan but also (in conjunction with choreographer Scott Ambler) thrillingly generates the tension, determination and excitement of wanting to be the fastest in the field.
It seems almost unfair to single out any of the well-trained, physically committed cast, but Tam Williams self-sacrificing Lord Lindsey deserves a special mention for clearing a hurdle – its ends topped with precariously balanced glasses of champagne – several times over, and Nicholas Woodeson is memorable as the professional coach used by Abrahams, much to disapproval of the Cambridge dons.
Better than a ticket to the Olympics – and cheaper. Go.
Hampstead, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU
Tube | Swiss Cottage
Until 16th June | £22-£29
Then transfers to Gielgud from 22nd June till 10th November