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Review: Say Something Nice at the Old 505

By Rosie Niven

At the Old 505 this week, sitting down in my seat I’m greeted with bold words projected across the wall: You are here to say something nice. To speak simply, that is the entire premise of Smoke Labours Productions Say Something Nice. In their words, ‘It’s a mean world out there. There’s lots of dicks out there. Don’t be one of them.’

Say Something Nice is a live art piece written by Sam Brooks originating from New Zealand which aims to bring out the nice side of its audience. With no words spoken the entire piece, the audience is instructed via projected words that list different tasks for me to undertake. We collect a notepad, pen and envelope and scatter ourselves throughout the Old 505 theatre as instructed, then embark on a journey that claims that we’re going to explore niceness. The first word we’re asked to write down is easy - we each write down one nice word and rush to the jar at the front of the stage to place it in there, as if we’ve completed a school project first and can’t wait to hand it to the teacher. The second activity is harder. We’re asked to write another nice word, then a nice sentence. As we work through the tasks, they become increasingly more challenging, and the speed at which people jump up to share their responses with the jar slows dramatically. Tasks such as “write a nice sentence about a person you admire” or “write a nice sentence about someone you think not so nice things about” stunt the audience for a moment, and we try to move past basic words of ‘nice’ and ‘like’. 

Our tenth and final task is the most challenging: we’re required to decide who we love most in the entire world, and write their name on the envelope. Then we write two letters - one that says all the things you’d like to say to that person right now, and the other that says all the things you couldn’t say to them. This introspective task very quickly silenced the audience chatter as everyone took a moment to think about their loves and their regrets. The live feed screen instructs us to choose only one of those letters, and put it in the envelope. The other will go inside the jar at the front and be destroyed. Choosing between what you want to say and what you didn’t think you could feels like a moral dilemma I didn’t think I’d be dealing with on a Tuesday evening at a Fringe show, but this is the beauty of the piece. Say Something Nice is the kind of work that creeps up on you, and gets you in the heart when you’re not expecting it. You brush off the kind words you’re asked to write on the paper, then the kind sentence, then suddenly you’re writing a note to the person you love most in your life with all the things you’ve wanted to say to them but could never say. It’s a cathartic experience that you can’t prepare yourself for. 

While a simple concept, Say Something Nice doesn’t require the flourishes of tech or elaborate plot devices that other shows do. It only needs you to be kind, and to write down those kind thoughts on a piece of paper. Really, how hard is it to say something nice?

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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