Leila is a quirky (is she quirky if I describe her as such?) barista, wearing a knitted hat full of holes. “I like talking to people. I find it makes them smile” she says, to unenthused stranger Martin at a bus stop. To be completely honest, in this situation I’d be entirely like Martin: if some stranger started talking to me at a bus stop, probing me about my life, I’d start running, or pretend I was deaf. But Helena Westerman’s play tries to break down the barriers of that, and show us that talking to strangers in ordinary places can be beneficial.
Told through the series of meeting the pair have at the same bus stop over the course of about a year, we see Martin and Leila’s stranger status turn into acquaintance, confidant, and eventually as somewhat friends. As the seasons change – and alcohol sometimes mixes into the equation – the pair begin to unload personal details about their lives. Martin is dealing with family issues, and Leila is wondering about her career choice.
Westerman’s script itself is well-written, with a nice mixture of funny (such as Martin, drunk, dressed in a Wonder Woman outfit) and touching moments. Questions about masculinity are brought up throughout, and are both thought-provoking and handled really well. At times, the phrase “long time no see” is used a bit too much, even if it is true. The change in costumes can easily denote the shift in time alone.
The two actors, Helena Westerman and Robert Hayes, play these shifts in the text well, with Hayes in particular building up from a disengaged man attempting to keeping his emotions together, to eventually breaking down at the bus stop, with all of the events of the last few months coming to a head. Westerman’s Leila is upbeat and funny, and we do get to see a side of sadness hiding in her, too, despite her perky front.
‘An Act of Kindness’ is a lovely, heartwarming play which unlocks so many key ideas personal issues a lot of us are facing. It embodies the saying of “a problem shared is a problem halved”, and is indeed here at the right time, a time where we seem to be becoming less open and less willing to even smile at strangers, let alone talk to them. Here, we see the merits of doing so.
‘An Act of Kindness’ by Rascal Theatre will be at the Edinburgh Fringe from the 3rd – 28th of August