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4000 Miles, The Print Room

Amy Herzog
Directed by James Dacre

★★★★

Pros: Fantastic acting from Sara Kestelman and realistic lighting, sound and set by the production team.

Cons: Annoying American accents and the use of American clichés (such as repetition of the word ‘like’) can be a bit distracting

Our Verdict: Good acting and a heartwarming story makes this production one to watch.

Courtesy of The Print Room

Following on from its UK premiere in April this year at the Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath, 4000 Miles has now transferred to The Print Room in Notting Hill. A strong cast with fantastic writing from playwright Amy Herzog, makes this tale believable and heartwarming.

Twenty one year old Leo (played by Daniel Boyd) turns up suddenly at his 91 year old grandmother’s apartment, after completing a coast-to-coast bike journey across America. Olivier award winning actress Sara Kestelman plays Vera Joseph, a lonely but sharp, feisty elderly woman who is struggling to come to terms with old age. Kestelman’s portrayal of an intelligent woman frustrated by her inability to remember words or phrases is perfectly captured and will make many audience members think fondly of their own grandparents or elderly relatives. Certainly throughout the performance I found myself thinking of my relationship with my grandparents in comparison to the relationship that Leo and Vera share.

Boyd’s representation of hippie Leo, was admirable, although it did take me a long time to warm to him and it was not until the retelling of how his best friend died during the ride across America that I really connected with him. At times you want to shake him and tell him to start living in the real world, while at other points you can’t help but admire him for his ability to reject consumerism. The introduction of Bec, Leo’s ex girlfriend (played by Jenny Hulse) didn’t really add anything to the story and the repetition of the word ‘like’ after most sentences did begin to grate on me. Jing Lusi also offers light comedy in her supporting role as Amanda, an art student Leo brings home for the night.

Death is featured prominently throughout the play – Vera is a widower whose husband’s name still appears on the downstairs buzzer, and during Leo’s month long stay several of her friends pass away making her feel even lonely. However, the loss of Leo’s young friend also shows that it’s not only the older generation who are affected by death. It seems as though the connection between the two generations is bridged somewhat with the realisiation that we’re not really all that different as human beings.

Simon Kenny’s set design was the perfect replica of a New York apartment – the peeling wallpaper, watermarked ceiling and stained windows and walls made the action on stage all the more real. The sounds of New York, horns honking, cats yowling and sirens, all add to the mood and drama taking place while the lighting is used not only to depict morning, afternoon and evening but also to create atmosphere.

Herzog has done a great job of making the characters real, thereby making 4000 Miles a touching show with some laugh out loud moments – mainly thanks to Kestelman and Lusi. While Boyd’s American accent could do with a little bit of work, it is Kestelman who really steals the show.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

4000 Miles runs at The Print Room until 1st June 2013.
Book Online at:
http://www.the-print-room.org

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