An Act of Kindness

Two strangers meet at a bus stop. He’s dropping his sick mother off at the hospital. She’s late to the cafe job that she hates. Through a series of interludes, An Act Of Kindness – the debut Fringe production from Rascal Theatre – charts the friendship of two very different young people at crossroads in their lives, and explores their intersecting hopes and anxieties through funny hats, booze and public transport.

There’s a lot to recommend about An Act Of Kindness – two excellent actors, sharp direction, and a bouncy, watchable personality.

The greatest strength of Helena Westerman’s script is its characters. Leila (played by Westerman herself) is an effervescent, quirky figure who meets each new day with optimism. Despite her positive outlook, she feels lost. She likes superheroes and Comic-Con, but doesn’t find much excitement in her day-to-day life. Martin (played by Robert Hayes) is a down-to-earth, successful young professional, grappling with his mother’s cancer treatment and its effect on his family. Both parts are acted superbly; Westerman attacks her delivery with gusto, and effortlessly conveys Leila’s comical, off-kilter approach to life. Her personality radiates off the stage. Hayes is even better – grounded, authentic and dynamic, Hayes manages the difficult task of making a pretty normal guy absorbing to watch.

The discrete scenes, too, are well-written. Dialogue flows with a natural pace that feels satisfying. The pair rebound off one another in often adorable occasionally poignant ways, although at times their interactions slip into the cliché. Director Caroline Simonsen shapes each moment and each scene as a whole into a buoyant, believable story that never feels stagnant. For a play without much in the way of plot points, this is an admirable achievement.

The only real problems with the production arise in its theming. An Act Of Kindness deals with millennial disaffection and idealism, but outside of the characters’ personalities themselves these feel shoehorned in. Nothing much unexpected ever happens to change the circumstances of the play, and as such it all feels a little tried. What this play is about is something most people have seen before – it’s never boring, but it does come off as a bit shallow.

There’s a lot to recommend about An Act Of Kindness – two excellent actors, sharp direction, and a bouncy, watchable personality. The play just doesn’t offer anything novel, and lacks the lasting impact of other shows that it exceeds in execution. 

Reviews by Jared Liebmiller

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The Blurb

Two strangers meet at a bus stop. Martin, a successful young professional, leads a wildly different life to Leila, a daydreaming waitress at a greasy spoon. Living amidst the chaos of London, both struggle with what is expected of them as a man, as a woman, and where they fit into society. Set solely at a bus stop, An Act of Kindness explores gender pressure and the impact it has on identity. If we allow ourselves to connect to others, a stranger’s perspective of the world can clarify our own. Funny, warm, relatable to all humans.