Review: 4000 Miles

A journey loaded with both comedy and drama kept Hannah Billie Perry enthralled from start to finish

Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles definitely goes the distance, as the audience was thoroughly engrossed for the long haul.

4000 Miles tells the aftermath of a bike trip turned tragedy as 21 year old neo-hippie Leo (Ben Norris) moves in with his 91 year old grandmother, Vera (Nia Tilley).

Interspersed with moments of hilarious and finely-wrought comedy, this intergenerational drama explores themes of distance (both temporal and emotional) and the way people connect with each other.

Ben and Nia are an effortlessly convincing match as estranged grandson and grandmother. Leo’s perceived nonchalance was handled elegantly by Ben and provided the perfect counterpart and contrast for the feisty portrayal of Vera by Nia.

It would be very easy to go too far and make Vera’s character into something bordering on farcical due to the regular moments of comedy the play affords, but thankfully, this never happens.

Nia’s performance overall was, in my opinion, near-on faultless. Habits and mannerisms, both vocal and physical, were sustained brilliantly throughout and resulted in an idiosyncratic and engaging performance.

Moments of comedy including, but not limited to, phone calls with her ‘frenemy’ neighbour, Ginny, also had the audience in stitches.

Alice Hodgson’s portrayal of Bec, Leo’s on-off girlfriend, is similarly worth commending.

The strained, tense air between the pair was almost tangible, evoked easily through their naturalistic interactions.

Although a relatively minor character compared to Leo and Vera in terms of staging, Bec’s inner conflict was performed well, eliciting genuine interest in her character from the audience and adding another layer of dynamism to the production.

Bethany Kapila’s one-scene appearance as Amanda, a self-professed South African ‘slut’ who Leo attempts to woo one night also really stood out for me.

A fourth character being introduced so late into the production could easily have been overlooked by the audience, but her boundless energy quickly and firmly established her as a character in her own right and one that I wanted to see more of.

The audience is made aware of a tragic past event quickly, and Ben manages to retain an air of repression masterfully under his character’s guise of indifference. This hint of restraint acts as momentum that carries the play forward to its climax, the revelation of how Leo’s best friend Mika died.

The monologue that reveals this was performed brilliantly without being over sentimental in the slightest. The unbridled anguish Ben evoked at this point struck a real note of pathos with me personally, and I’m sure with the rest of the audience too.

Tiny, tiny blips were handled supremely by the cast. I’m still not even sure if the couple of times Nia started the wrong line were intentional or not as they were incorporated so well into the little old lady character who just can’t ‘find her words’, and an illuminating computer screen powering down during a Skype call between Leo and his sister was similarly passed over by Ben without a blink.

For a play so fundamentally concerned with distance it was plain to see how close-knit the four-part cast are, and it’s unlikely that that could have been achieved without the brilliant directing of Ricky Carey.

Nothing was overdone, nothing was unnecessary, the static set of Vera’s West Village apartment was set out and utilised well, as were the constraints of the Amos Room – it’s really hard to find fault with anything.

4000 Miles was the first Guild production I’ve seen, and it’s definitely set the bar high. I look forward to seeing what Infinity have planned for future productions.