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BWW Review: TRESTLE, Jack Studio Theatre


Harry and Denise find each other in a village hall every Thursday evening and (almost) "find each other" too.

BWW Review: TRESTLE, Jack Studio Theatre

BWW Review: TRESTLE, Jack Studio Theatre Denise is there for the Zumba class she runs; Harry is there wrapping up his "Improvement Committee" papers. Soon, Harry is there for Denise mainly - and Denise? Well, soon she's there for Harry (a bit anyway) too.

Maybe it's something about Yorkshire, because Stewart Pringle's two-hander is set in a village in the Broad Acres and, accents notwithstanding, one kept getting a little Alan Bennett here, a little John Godber there, as two "ordinary" people navigated towards common ground in a draughty hall with a dodgy lav. Harry, widower, socially conservative, is drawn just short of the gruff Northern stereotype and Denise, all stretching energy for body and soul, is just short of the kind of woman you'd probably want to meet on the 13th day of a singles cruise, but definitely not on the first. We believe in these people.

That said, these are not lives we often see on stage, outside of the two playwrights named above who are almost genres in themselves. As we emerge from Covid, the Harrys and Denises will become even more important politically and socially, not least because there are so many of them. Filling time, adjusting to demographic changes, protecting and re-contextualising what's important in history (histories) and preparing for when ageing bodies become dying bodies - none of this is easy and none of it can be done alone.

To be fair, those considerations sit largely in the background - up front, there's plenty of comedy wrought from the oddish couple, with lovely performances to enjoy from Jilly Bond and Timothy Harker, including a bravura dance routine executed to agony-inducing perfection. When each has their emotional release, it's all the more powerful for the understated work that has preceded it - so, despite the fact that the showdowns are obviously coming, they still hit home.

Even with its Papatango New Writing Prize lineage, the play's first half structure is blighted by too many blackouts and set re-arrangements sapping energy from both the growing relationship and comic cuts. Longer scenes after the interval establish the momentum any comedy needs.

It's a funny thing, age - like so many other aspects of life, you don't think it'll happen to you until it does. At one point, Denise says something about having to get on with things because she's 63. I inwardly nodded in agreement, thinking "You do, love, you do". I then gulped a little when I realised that she's only five years older than me...

Trestle is at the Jack Studio Theatre until 26 June.

Photos: Jack Studio Theatre.

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