“What’s your fantasy death? Describe it in one sentence.” Neatly aligned on the benches of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, small squares of blue paper compel us to disclose what must be one of our most repressed thoughts. “Old Age” – I scribble, quickly dismissing the idea.
Comedian and performance artist Ben Target welcomed us one by one as we entered the auditorium. Holding a stack of espresso paper cups in one hand and a flask of coffee in the other, offering it around. For those who have followed him over the years this must be a lovely exchange to cherish. For those who, like me, are less familiar with his previous work, this shared moment becomes some sort of implicit agreement: he has already captured all my attention.
Lorenzo Wong was a Hong Kong-born architect who lived with Target’s family following his move to London in the 60s. He was the fun uncle, the promoter of the “silly hour” and an endless provider of pragmatic advice – whether that being how to make a homemade Wagon Wheel biscuit or to fully accept one’s sexuality.
In September 2020, due to Lorenzo’s old age and deteriorating health, Target decided to move in with him, becoming his full-time carer. This show is a tender but unforgiving account of those final months together, interspersed with boisterous childhood memories. It’s an affectionate tribute to a fascinating man, which takes us to great heights of laughter before dropping us into pits of anguish. Told with a shattering mix of endearment and exasperation, its unrelenting richness of detail keeps us captive of its every word.
Prompted by shifts in lighting, we become like Pavlov’s dogs: unable to control giggles or tears, which are commanded from the stage with riveting expertise. Target’s charisma doesn’t even falter when a phone goes off at a rather crucial time. He stops, cracks a joke, gets a high five from the misfortunate phone owner and quickly hushes us, ready to restart. It is a heartbreaking as much as heart-warming portrayal of old age that, understandably, leaves most of us red-eyed. Personally, I don’t think I have ever laughed and cried so much in the same show. By the end, we all love and all miss Lorenzo.
Written by: Ben Target
Directed by: Adam Brace
Produced by: Soho Theatre
Ben Target: LORENZO plays at EdFringe 2023 until 27 August, 11:55am at Summerhall. Further information and bookings here.