The Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley has opened its doors for the first time in fifteen months with a wonderfully heart-warming production of Stewart Pringle’s Trestle.
a wonderfully heart-warming production
This is a joint production with The Maltings Theatre, St Albans, from where it was live-streamed in April 2021. Winner of the Papatango New Writing Prize, the play premiered in 2017 at Southwark Playhouse. Under the direction of Off West End Award-winner Matthew Parker it now returns to the stage in front of socially-distanced live audiences.
It’s not radical, it’s not controversial nor is it concerned with any of the current social movements around women, race, sexual identity or politics. Instead, it’s a simple story of two ordinary people whose paths cross in The Temperance Hall, Billingham, a quiet village in Yorkshire. Harry (Timothy Harker) hires a room there for meetings of the Billingham Improvement Committee, a group of worthy locals committed to preserving and maintaining the tranquility of the insular village, through fundraising and doing little jobs that fall outside the scope of the local council. The trestle table has to be quickly put away once the meeting is over to make way for Denise (Jilly Bond), who runs a zumba class in the same room immediately thereafter. One day they meet in the crossover and take down the table together. Over the weeks, a time scale illustrated in a series of rapid scenes, delineated by Laurel Marks’ striking lighting, this motif becomes a ritual. What starts out as accompanying small talk incrementally develops into deeper conversations that reveal their very different worlds.
Harker and Bond create the contrasting yet compatible characters with seeming ease and both appear very comfortable in their roles. Harker has the authority to conduct meetings when almost everyone is in agreement yet shows Harry’s vulnerability in the informal chit-chat and probing questions he encounters with Denise. He’s probably always been something of a loner, more at home at the garden centre than at a party. Denise doesn’t hate flowers but wouldn’t spend too much time with them. Bond creates an energetic, radical, questioning woman who confronts issues and is likely to call a spade a shovel. She has home-spun philosophies and he has an empty house. The skill of the writing and the performances is to see how the characters little-by-little open up and how more and more is revealed about them.
There are some amusing and witty moments in this play that director Parker has brought out in this flowing production that gives two older actors a chance to fill the stage and show the quality of performance that generation can deliver.