In Marietta Kirkbride’s new play The Long Trick, Tristan lives aboard a boat on the Helford river in Cornwall, and reluctantly robs second homes to support himself and his teenage daughter, Kelsey.
When his girlfriend Gail’s enthusiasm for the scheme proves to be ideological rather than practical, the tension between the three characters leads to their eventual separation. Though gentrification is the focus, it is a gently told narrative focussing on the dynamic between these three characters, and their loneliness. The Long Trick uses folk song and a storytelling narrative cleverly to richly evoke the land and seascape found in the quiet heart of Cornwall.
The writing is strong throughout, created in a distinctively poetic style. The blending of narrative storytelling with action was interesting stylistically. It gave the drama a good pace, and plenty of variation to maintain a high level of interest in the audience.
The characters were well-crafted, with their tri relationship well imagined and impressively acted. The script used humour sparingly to relieve the tension. It was also a strength in the writing that the story didn’t approach anything overly moralistic at its conclusion – it veered away from demonising either side of the issue.
The twist towards the end of the play felt quite sudden. And the resolution following this was a little slow in comparison. But, even if the pacing near closing felt unbalanced, the performances of all three characters were strong enough to maintain the tension at a high pitch. Martha Seignior (Kelsey) brought out the sense of vulnerability in the family particularly well, playing the insecurity of her character beautifully.
Aaron May’s sound design was very effective: the songs were well composed and integrated into the drama effectively. The sounds of the sea and the natural environment added a lot to the evocation of the world, and the lighting design was simple but equally effective. The set-design was very simple and transportable, which allowed very quick transitions between scenes and gave a sense of constant movement. Its simplicity allowed the well-crafted writing to shine.
Kirkbride’s play addresses the issue of gentrification and social alienation with subtlety, and avoids oversimplifying the divides that exist between us. The Long Trick was successful because it was not reliant on big issues to create political tensions, but kept these political tensions character-based. It is an intelligently written and cleverly produced show worth seeing.
The Long Trick played at VAULT Festival until 26 February. For more information about the production, see here.