A solo show from Sam Brooks, Say Something Nice is an attempt to strike out from the pack with something different and new.
The show looks and feels like a self-help seminar. You walk into a large room filled with tables – each table is big enough for two people. On each table are pads and pens.
In front of the tables sits a projector, playing instructions to the audience. And adjacent to the screen, Mr Brooks sits at a table cutting vegetables and keeping time. Occasionally he will look up and smile.
Otherwise, the show is a series of silent tasks, in which the audience write down words and sentences about nice things. The intent of the show is that you leave with a better understanding of what nice really means.
The only active component is his lackey in the back who types the instructions on screen. Occasionally there are spelling mistakes, which I guess count as comedic beats.
This show felt like a Rorschach Test for my taste in things. I spent the whole show pondering whether the show was bad or if I am just a cynical pre-geriatric. About halfway through the show, the subject of Beyoncé came up and I was finally able to recognise something important about the show and my taste in music, theatre, movies etc: I like flaws.
I’ve never been able to get into Beyoncé because she never felt approachable. She was like Mt Rushmore or the Pyramids. You can admire the scope and appreciate the craft, but that’s it. I need something real and flawed to latch onto.
This is a long way for me to say that I was not particularly enamored with this show. The problem – if I can call it that — is that Say Something Nice is just that. It’s nice.
One of the core tenants of theatre is danger — is the actor going to remember his lines; is s/he going to corpse?; oh god, am I going to be picked for the improv game?
Everything about the show is so perfectly pitched toward its core concept that the natural suspense of the medium is missing. And that left me feeling a little cold. Especially when the ultimate message of the show is so… obvious.
There’s ultimately nothing about the show that surprises, or exposes something truly profound. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe I’m experiencing early senility. Maybe I prefer Rihanna. I don’t know.
The sentiment behind the show is admirable, but ‘nice’ does not stir the blood, it does not pull you in. It’s soft and easy, and Sam Brooks’ show does nothing really that thought-provoking. He does not even share any of the fruits or vegetables he was cutting up. Now that would have been nice.
Ultimately the show’s content could have been condensed into a Youtube clip, the kind my Mum sends me every other day. Your best bet might be to follow the show’s advice, not see it and do something nice for someone you care about.
Say Something Nice plays at Samoa House as part of Auckland Fringe until 11 March. Details see Auckland Fringe.