Comedian Laura Mugridge, in collaboration with Tom Frankland, has created a tiny gem of a show with her ‘solo’ performance Running On Air. It’s not entirely a solo performance – her yellow VW campervan, called Joany, in which the show takes place is a character herself. And the audience, which is limited to five at a time for obvious reasons, all have various roles to play throughout. When I saw it I was asked to play the part of Laura’s husband Tom whilst the rest of the crew shared out tasks such as DJ, timekeeper and band.
The entire enterprise has a wonderful homemade feel, in keeping with the setting. Tiny cupboards open to reveal props such as a tin of lentils (an instrument for our band moment), a Dictaphone on which Tom has left a message for us all, and a miniature version of a mountain range complete with lights and a tiny doll of Mugridge herself.
This mountain range also feels like a character in the piece, which sees Mugridge wittily narrating the past couple of years of her life. She jumps from a rain-drenched wedding in Cornwall, to the purchase and repeated breakdown of Joany, to her continuous struggle with her passion for performing comedy in opposition to her desire to be at home with her husband growing vegetables. What could have been cloying or clichéd is pure heartwarming storytelling in Mugridge’s hands. She is genuine, warm and quietly funny without ever trying too hard. As she narrates Joany’s continuing breakdowns she illustrates the amount of tears she cried by filling wine glasses in growing size until she is filling up a pint glass. It’s a simple image, perfectly capturing the moment.
It is moments such as this which make Running On Air a pitch perfect roadtrip show – intimate, moving, resourceful, bittersweet and joyous.