Papatengo prizewinner Stuart Pringle’s Trestle was chosen for production at the Southwark from over 1036 entries. A quiet play, presented with a haunting vulnerability by Gary Lilburn and Connie Walker, Trestle shows the simple mundaneness of ageing life.
Portraying the beginning through to the end of a friendship between the chair of a community and a Zumba teacher, Pringle’s script charts the complex ups and downs of elderly companionship with a delicate authority. The usual issue of two-handers is avoided – while the action takes place in one particular room (beautifully created by Frankie Bradshaw), the play is constructed from snippets of the crossover time period from the end of the city council session to the start of the Zumba class. Charting their once-weekly Thursday meetings through the beginning of a burgeoning friendship is an inspired way of creating comparison points of ‘before’ and ‘after’ that are usually so tricky in a two-hander. This does, however, create a couple of issues – especially towards the beginning of the play. With the first conversations usually just around a minute long, the constant changing in time (characterized by a blackout while the actors change the set) means the play takes a while to get started, being constantly broken up by chunks of darkness.
Lilburn is phenomenal as the slightly bemused Harry, his warmth and passion for the community acting as a wonderful counterpoint to the more globally-aware Denise. Pringle’s delicate examination of the latter half of life is played out with enormous sophistication – there is no preaching, no mention of retirement homes or awkward ruminations on the nature of ageing. Political disagreement are had, sure, and the nature of grass verges becomes a rather prickly subject, but the sophistication with which the subject is handled is a wonder to behold. A lovely, quiet, intensely thoughtful piece.