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4000 Miles

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Daniel Boyd & Sara Kestelman. Photo: Jane Hobson

This import from New York, by way of the Ustinov Studio at Bath’s Theatre Royal, is a bit of a treat. The writing of Amy Herzog and a very strong cast results in beautifully constructed characters that represent four very different but totally believable personalities.

First and foremost, Olivier Award-winning Sara Kestelman is astonishingly good as 91-year-old grandmother Vera. Her performance is so nuanced and natural, and she has such impeccable timing that it is almost impossible to believe her lines are scripted. She perfectly captures the spirit of an increasingly lonely but feisty old lady, gradually losing her companions, hearing and short-term memory, yet cantankerous enough to be reluctant to admit that this makes her sad.

Daniel Boyd plays her 21-year-old latter-day hippie grandson Leo, who turns up unannounced at her Manhattan apartment at 3am after a coast-to-coast bike ride which was tainted with tragedy. Boyd manages to make you simultaneously admire Leo’s laid-back attitude to life and want to strangle him and tell him to grow up and take some responsibility.

The relationship between Vera and Leo is by turns funny, touching and explosive, and explored through a series of conversations and altercations all set within the confines of Vera’s apartment. Topics covered include family, relationships, sex, death and politics – in short, all of human life.

The two supporting actresses add colour; Jenny Hulse as the more straight-laced and possibly slightly repressed Bec, Leo’s girlfriend of sorts, and Jing Lusi as the tipsy, ditsy art student Amanda that Leo picks up one night.

Credit must also be given for James Dacre’s deft direction, Simon Kenny’s spot-on Manhattan apartment set, and Richard Howell’s atmospheric and realistic lighting design.

This show is witty – occasionally laugh-out-loud funny – and touching without being overly sentimental; its themes and characters are entirely relatable (I recognised a bit of me in each of them) and as such it should be enjoyed by just about anyone.

-Emma Watkins


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