Like the film it’s based on, Chariots of Fire tells the story of runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who win a place on the UK’s 1924 Olympic team.
If you’ve seen the film you know the rest of the story, if you haven’t our spoiler-free policy means I’m not going to tell you more than that.
Ahead of seeing the play I was unsure how a story that relies on the large, open spaces of racing tracks could be scaled down to fit a stage.
Were we to be treated to the cast merely running back and forward across the traditional long stage in front of some painted backdrops? If so that hardly seemed appropriate for such an inspirational story.
In the end there was no need for such pessimism – designer Miriam Buether has offered up something much better.
A central circular stage has been laid out with a figure 8 running track looping through the seating which has in turn been extended to surround the stage.
This gives the play a very immersive feel, effectively turns the theatre audience into stadium patrons and places the sweat and energy of the running central to the performances.
James McArdle and Jack Lowden lead the cast as Abrahams and Liddell respectively while stalwarts Simon Williams and Nickolas Grace bring a touch of old school charm to proceedings.
Both leads nicely capture the determination and drive of successful sportsmen and are ably supported by energetic performances from the rest of the cast.
By the end of the night my long held cynicism towards this year’s London Games had been transformed into a relentlessly positive and patriotic vibe.
If you don’t leave the theatre rooting for Team GB you weren’t paying enough attention.
The timing of the play’s opening – weeks before London hosts the Olympics – should ensure it does great box office but it’s the fantastic performances, script and production values which mean this play deserves a successful run.
Our verdict: 5/5
Chariots of Fire runs until 10 November at the Gielgud Theatre. Tickets can be booked via this link.