Erin Harrington reviews Nepal, devised and performed by Christopher Alan Moore, at Little Andromeda, Saturday 9 July 2022.
As we come in to see the fantastic one-man show Nepal, actor Christopher Alan Moore is on-stage, sitting on an ordinary chair in a long-sleeved tee and rugby shorts, noodling around on his guitar. Guitar down, a subtle change in posture, a slight slump, a leg splayed out and we’re with Jordan, an ordinary kid who lives with his dad and his grandpa. Jordan hoons around on his skateboard, earbuds blasting out (via soft beat-boxing) a perpetual soundtrack to his day. He stays up too late playing computer games and dreams of his childhood imaginary friend, Dan the crab. He goes to school and kinda listens in class and does his exams and quietly gets on with it. He doesn’t really know what happens next, but he’s saved a bunch of money from his supermarket job, and after a dreary meeting with a careers counsellor makes an off the cuff decision borrow his dad’s ski gear and go see the biggest mountain there is. There, he meets – well that would ruin it. A grand adventure, yes, but Jordan’s modest coming-of-age story is a small, gentle and very funny piece of theatre that leaves you feeling good about the world.
Nepal’s key conceit is its inversion of scale. It presents big things – personal, literal, metaphorical – in a small way. There’s no soundtrack, or changes to lighting state or set or costume, just an actor with some serious physical theatre chops. Moore’s performance has a subtlety and quiet precision that draws you in and requires you to pay careful attention such that I spend much of the hour leaning forward in my seat. We watch days and lives flash before us; we duck in and out of dreams; we see (amazingly) an ‘origin of man’ sequence; we travel the world and see marvelous things as Jordan’s trip takes an unexpected turn.
Yet, Moore never leaves the small space he’s allowed himself, barely a metre square, except to reach down for his guitar. Rapid changes in character, setting, accent and action are perfectly legible, finding that sweet spot between stereotype and specificity where even briefly introduced figures have a sense of depth. This is particularly impressive given the taciturn nature of some of the male Kiwi mutterers. I can see a lot of this is riffing on the small box in which many young men find themselves living, the feeling all young people on the cusp of adulthood have of being overwhelmed, and the literal broadening of horizons, which is to say that Jordan’s a kid we all know. This restraint, alongside the empathy and warmth with which characters are presented, makes for an impressive performance.
Before the show a friend and I were talking about how much of what we watch at the moment is about pain – works responding to global catastrophe, or that hit historical and present-day violence with bravery and anger, and narratives (even, maybe especially, the very funny ones) informed by anxiety, trauma and uncertainty. These are necessary, important works. But about halfway through Nepal I have a moment of sudden, cool-water relief. It’s the realisation that this is just a story of big-small change, in which a decent and somewhat aimless kid leaves home and sees a different set of stars for the first time, and that nothing shitty is going to happen. It’s sweet, and kind, and funny, and fundamentally nice. I come away from this hour of tender, intimate magic with my heart full, thoroughly charmed.
Nepal plays at Little Andromeda 9 – 10 July, 2022.