4000 Miles

Tue 21st – Sat 25th January 2014

reviews

Olivia Fletcher

at 09:45 on 22nd Jan 2014

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4000 Miles tells the story of Leo, an avid cyclist who arrives at his old Commy Grandmother's door at four o'clock in the morning seeking refuge. We know not why, but there is trouble at the heart of this play. Leo, the 'mountain man', is physically fit though emotionally unstable and wrecked. Vera is elderly and sassy, though stubborn, unable to do much for herself. The play grows around this peculiar relationship as it forms. The pair share a connection, an understanding and a deep, intriguing sense of melancholy. It is fresh and exciting, heart-warming and invigorating. The story is told through layers of laughter, anger and anguish. As one of 2013's best-received theatre productions and as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 4000 Miles was certainly an ambitious choice, though David Rattigan and Matthew Lee interpret the script with dignity and with comic style.

The endearing tale is brought to life through brilliantly comforting yet engaging stage direction. It is not a stage; it is their home. We walk head first in to New York City as Gabriel Cagan weaves in and out of traffic on a stationary bike - it is clear that there is a specific vision behind this play. David Rattigan and Matthew Lee know exactly what they're doing . The plot unfolds within a comfortable West Village apartment and the aforementioned scenes of woe, laughter and fury happen within the comfort of the home and among the carcasses of books which stand in for the Marxist life in which Vera once thrived. Effectively, we move in with Vera and Leo. Against the backdrop of metropolis and the debris of the Cold War a young, energetic, but run-down man uncovers the far from extinguished spirit that lies behind the folded skin of his shrill Grandmother. Whilst all this sounds wildly serious and political, 4000 miles is not without its laughter. As Vera and Leo co-exist within each other's space we are treated to many a comic scene as the disparate yet complimentary generations collide.

The political metaphors are at once intriguing and not completely distracting. There is a sense of something lingering from the past, though we are not sure what it is. The present is our subject yet this does not stop the bitter ends of the past from creeping in through the contours of light small talk and bursting in through explosions of anger and emotion. A reconciliation between the old and young creates a feeling of hope. As Vera and Leo reveal their troubles, their loss and their pain, things feel addressed and reconciled. Though not fully resolved, the two find comfort in each other's company.

The production is perfectly cast, and the chemistry between Cagan and Kass is natural, hilarious and endearing all at once. As Julia Kass struggles across the stage, it is clear that this woman is not only elderly but also in great pain. Every movement is heavy, stiff, convincing. Vera, though fumbling and stuttering, manages to retain her sharp wit and is a constant source of resounding laughter. Her aged brain is played out convincingly as she struggles to articulate her undying support for the revolution that never seemed to happen. Though affectionate, Leo and Vera's relationship is not conventional or predictable at all. It is truly a pleasure to watch. Both are enigmatic and without fault.

I strongly recommend that you go to watch this play and get to know these characters as they become the unlikeliest of friends. 4000 miles is light-hearted without being flippant. It is artistically designed and played out with commitment. 4000 miles is a joy.

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