Writer: Kieran Dee
Director: Grace Millie
Kieran has a gap inside his head. A space under his skin where something is not quite right. In medical terms, a ‘hematoma’ is a bruise– the result of a traumatic injury. In this short solo show (70 minutes), writer and performer Kieran Dee cleverly develops this metaphor to explore angst, uncertainly and grief. There are many poignant as well as funny moments and, although there are also gaps in the writing, this is an entertaining second show by young company Moon Loaf.
When we first meet Kieran, he is young, likeable and a little cocky – as demonstrated in his finger drawing on a train window. The story is gentle at first, and after an aborted trip to Stansted airport, we eventually travel from the safe suburbs of Cambridge (where Kieran’s mom feeds him, and his Scottish dad berates him) landing Kieran out of his comfort zone, first in Hong Kong and eventually Australia. A good mate comes along for the trip because every skilful travel writer needs a sidekick. Bill Bryson has the affable, grumpy Katz. Kieran’s companion Grace is a confident and more level-headed platonic girlfriend. She sounds much like Dee, only Welsh.
Dee’s observational storytelling is rich in detail. His scenarios are vivid, and it is in playing with narrative structure (breaking ‘character’ to address the audience) that his story lifts further. There is found humour in the everyday situations of grappling to drive a gear shift, buying medication in a different language and struggling with public transport “Why does everything have to be in Chinese”?
There is also a sense that something awful is coming. Bad weather and, closer to home, news of the 2015 Paris attacks. Hong Kong feels like a stopgap before the main event. Kieran and Grace go clubbing, attempt a bungee jump, and meet fellow backpackers and locals. It is in Australia when an interview with Greenpeace and new friend Mehdi presents a chance at the life Kieran wants. These characters all performed by Dee are well observed, up to a point. Some minor characters veer close to the insensitive or generic, but Dee pulls them back, and director Grace Millie is careful that physical characteristics and accents add definition.
As a performer, Dee is funny, sincere, and immensely watchable with terrific instincts for comedy. Although it is in the, perhaps too few, moments of stillness when he steps away from comedy and explores quieter moments of contemplation, that we see a further insight. Kieran speaks to his hematoma (a soft white circle of light, neatly projected by designer Sam Penn) and it is in this space we are allowed glimpses of what lies deeper beneath. “Side-lined is where I feel most comfortable”. Curiously, these are the moments where the dialogue is occasionally garbled, and Dee’s energy momentarily drops, perhaps unintentionally exposing his vulnerability.
Runs until 12 June 2021