An intrinsic part of London living is avoiding speaking to strangers at all costs. If, god-forbid, someone should strike up a conversation on public transport, you immediately assume they want something, and they usually do. In An Act of Kindness, the debut play by Helena Westerman, we meet two Londoners who only have a local bus stop in common.
Leila, played by Westerman, is a bit of a free spirit and full of joy, or so it would seem on the outside. She’s perfectly at ease jumping straight in and breaking the ice with Martin (Robert Hayes), who is a touch more reserved. But as they meet at that bus stop more often, their relationship softens and a friendship blossoms.
Directed by Caroline Simonsen, a graffiti covered bus stop forms the set, while the noise of London streets fills the performance space. Both performers seem totally comfortable in their roles and you can immediately feel a connection to the characters. Despite the occasional Wonderwoman costume and talk of superheroes, these are just ordinary people.
For a debut piece of writing it’s exceptional work. The story moves along easily and nothing feels out of place. The funny one-liners give way to more deep and meaningful conversations as the characters reveal their inner demons. Some scenes are closed off with one character getting on the bus, while others just end abruptly, leaving some possibility of the friendship extending beyond what we, the audience, are allowed to see.
An Act of Kindness, is such a simple idea that is wonderfully executed, the final emotional scene left a small tear in my eye and with a resolve to make sure that as soon as I’m back in London I’ll start a conversation with a stranger. A superb piece of theatre that is clever, funny and poignant, and which everyone involved with should be very proud of.