I’ve often come out of the theatre inspired to live life differently; but whether I’ve felt upset at the state of the world or spurred on to make a change I’ve never seen anything that’s actually proven to me that I can make a difference. 366 Days of Kindness is a manifesto we all should live by; it’s the antidote to our busy lives and an absolute delight of a performance.
Bernadette Russell and her co-writer and performer Gareth Brierley complement each other perfectly. Brieley’s knack for dry comedy is the ideal companion to Russell’s boundless enthusiasm and storytelling technique that hovers just on the right side of a children’s TV presenter. As Russell tells us her story of carrying out one kind act every day for a year (a leap year, hence the 366) Brierley adopts the personas of those she meets. Brierley also shows himself to be a skilled technical operator, sat at his laptop ensuring the projected films, slide shows and accompanying sounds stay on cue.
366 Days of Kindness has a homemade quality from the on-stage technician, performance style and homemade banner brightly asking us ‘Can kindness change the world?’. Well, for the 75 minutes of the performance at least, the effect of the performers’ kindness to us was nothing but positive. So often these days an audience can feel ill at ease, made to feel uncomfortable in the performance space as the show they’re watching attacks them. Russell’s space is a friendly one, nothing but smiles and safety and happiness. It’s all this and yet it acknowledges that our world is often not a very nice place at all.
366 Days of Kindness begins with Russell telling us all the ways she’s not been nice in the history of her life; she’s glued matches to her friend’s leg hairs, fed warm urine to her ill sister and insulted her mum when she was at her weakest. This introduction is funny and warms us to Russell’s performance style. The video that follows, clips from the riots of 2011, is all the more effective for this. The riots shook the nation at the time – it’s too easy to forget about such events and return to normal. This isn’t what Russell did, the events of August 2011 spurred her on to do something in her own small way – to see if kindness really can change the world.
After spending this time in the company of Russell and Brierley, who showed he can do a side-splitting comedy dance, I know I will try my best to no longer be one of the multitude trying not to catch anyone else’s eye. 366 Days of Kindness is full of joy and sweetness, it’s a testament to how moving performance can be and how much of a positive impact it can have.
366 Days of Kindness is played at the Brighton Fringe Festival. For more information see the Brighton Fringe website.