Reviewer's Rating

Ben Target is a well regarded comedian who has won various awards for his unique brand of alternative humour. In 2020 he took time out to act as carer for a former architect, Lorenzo Wong, to whom he had been close to as a child when Wong worked as an assistant to Target’s architect grandparents. Given a difficult home background, he had identified with Lorenzo as an honorary uncl,e and when he was no longer able to care for himself Ben moved in with him and looked after his practical and personal needs.

This hour-long set of reflections on the experience was initially to be directed by the late Adam Brace and it is appropriate that after a successful run in Edinburgh this summer that it comes to Soho Theatre where Brace was a familiar figure as a midwife to solo comedy acts. It is a quirky evening with Target offering you on entry both a small cup of coffee and a piece of paper on which you are invited to write a short description of what you would imagine to be a fine fantasy death. There are few props – a carpentry bench a projection screen and a little wooden crane that comes into its own as a part of a fire-eating special effect in the final moments. But for the most part it is simply one performer and his autobiographical tale.

Target has many years of experience in elderly care and that comes through in the blend of compassionate, wryly amusing and harrowing tales that he assembles. He is refreshingly realistic about the toll that unremitting days of attending to personal needs takes on the carer and is brave in admitting the full spectrum of feelings he experiences. But he also has a keen eye for the ridiculous and absurd, while also faithfully recording the moments in which Lorenzo’s undiminished personality shines through. He is a gifted descriptive writer just as much as a humourist and his vocal delivery is capable of a huge variety of emotional expression. The point near the end at which he pens a letter of eulogy to Lorenzo to place in his coffin is one of particular poignancy which created a moment of fine concentration in the audience.

However, I miss a sense of structure in the piece. Too many of the episodes come over as random reflections, insightful and evocative in their own right, but lacking a sense of a larger framework in which they can take their considered place. You end the show feeling somewhat frustrated at not knowing more about Lorenzo’s life, which involved a disrupted upbringing in Hong Kong, expulsion from Castro’s Cuba, and a distinguished career as an architect. I would have liked the play to have covered more of this ground and to have had fewer excursions into Target’s own autobiography, some of which seemed to have little to do with Lorenzo himself.

Shows which shine a light on palliative care of the elderly are few and far between, and even fewer are those that manage to find both comedy and compassion on that journey. Ben Target deserves great credit for tackling these themes and putting himself out there so vulnerably. But this work needs further integration and consideration of its materials before reaches its full potential.