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Nick: An Accidental Hero

Image: Event Finder (NZ)
Nick: An Accidental Hero is a one-woman show from Renee Lyons telling the story of Nick - an ordinary man who one day collapses during a game of rugby, and has a stroke.

Renee inhabits a number of different characters in order to tell the story often switching seamlessly from one to the other. Rather than storytelling as such, the characters are within scenes - talking to Nick or each other.

The exception to this is the character that opens the show - an enthusiastic Korean lady, working as an orderly in the hospital and providing the audience with some much needed comic relief.

As a white woman coming from New Zealand, to play this character could have dubious ethics if done wrong - but Renee is such a strong performer that we believe she is any character she portrays.

Other characters include a sensitively portrayed mother - keeping useful and trying to stay strong amidst the trauma of the situation, a burly friend of Nick's and later a British romantic interest.

Working from the time Nick has a stroke to ten years later, we see him progress from mute and suffering from locked-in syndrome to communicating cheekily with those around him via a letter board. We also see the people around him change, as they grow to accept what has happened.

This production also makes minimalist but clever use of technlogy. The lights dim and a flashlight focuses on an eye, then a hand as Renee speaks as the medical team receiving Nick at the hospital. Later, the stage is in darkness except to highlight Renee's feet, as Nick tries with determination to walk.

These are simple but highly effecting ways of communicating Nick's physical experience - as we imagine ourselves in this terrifying, isolating situation.

There is a playful embracing of the imperfect here - as the challenge of passing time arises, and the Korean lady, with the aid of a bubble machine, excitedly highlights moments from history. It's sweet, funny and somehow also sits well within the piece.

While I didn't find myself moved emotionally by the piece, I was engrossed in it - completely believing each situation with Renee making the stage feel full - as she switched between characters I still felt them there.

I was also glad to see this story being told - highlighting awareness of strokes in the young. Nick was a healthy and fit young man and yet this happened to him - with the production being based on a true story.

There is a perception that strokes happen to older people, or young people with a wild lifestyle but that is not the case. I've known two young women under the age of twenty who have had strokes. 25% of strokes happen to people under the age of 65 - it really is important to know the warning signs.

This was an enjoyable piece from an endearing and hugely talented performer, and definitely worth seeing.

Nick: An Accidental Hero plays at Assembly George Square at 3.15pm until 26 August.