26 Miles by Anthony Sergeant

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Wireless Theatre Company, August 2012
Produced to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics, 26 Miles looked back to the first Olympiad held in the city in 1912, when marathon runner Dorando Pietri caused something of a sensation by not winning the race.  Anthony Sergant's play showed how the distance of 26 miles 385 yards was fixed entirely on account of self-interest: Queen Alexandra (Jenny Runacre) wanted to have her family enjoy the privilege of witnessing the start and the finish of the race, which meant that an extra few yards was added so that it ended in front of the Royal Box.
While the subject is an intriguing one, it's not really sufficient for an entire play.  Hence Sergeant looked beyond 1912 to see what happened to the main protagonists in the years following.  He contrasted Queen Alexandra's fondness for Dorando with the relationship between a young carpenter and his wife; the carpenter was heavily involved in preparing things for the Royal Family and their acolytes, but enjoyed none of their privileges.  The monarch continued to live in her social dream-world; the carpenter had to experience the horrors of war.  Dorando, meanwhile, enjoyed the trappings of celebrity, even if he was ultimately forced to return home to Italy to resume his trade as a baker.
Pauline Walsh's production vividly captured the pre-1914 world, and how its basic fabric was blown apart by World War One - except, of course, for the Royal Family.