As I sit down for Jack Studios’ Trestle, which follows the unfurling relationship between two retired people, I am immediately aware that I am the only young person in the room. I begin to wonder if I will be able to totally relate to the themes and emotions of the play, and concede that I may not connect to the play as deeply as the majority of the audience. However, in its own astonishing way, I find that Trestle explores the nuances of human relationships in such a way that I am able to see some of my own experiences reflected at me. Throughout, Trestle manages to touch my heart and make me smile.
For me, the thing that Trestle pulls off so spectacularly is simplicity. The script is predictable, but Stewart Pringle’s writing is engaging throughout. We follow Harry (Timothy Harker) and Denise (Jilly Bond) through snapshots, as their lives intersect once a week while they fold away a trestle table in Billingham community hall. The trestle table itself takes centre stage, and throughout the play we watch it getting put away and taken back out countless times. The simple physicality of setting the table for each scene is strangely soothing to watch, and also grounding- we know where they are, who they are and exactly what is happening throughout.
Watching their interactions once a week, which can often be quite brief, is a fascinating experience – we see their relationship change incrementally, as they grow more comfortable with each other, start to confide in each other, and argue with one another. And, as they rarely spend time together outside of the trestle table, we get to see almost every single sentence and word they ever say to one another.
Harry and Denise seem to be opposites – Harry is slightly pompous, initially aloof, awkward, insecure; but also feels everything deeply, is caring, funny and adorable. One of my personal favourite jokes is when his phone is on flight mode, and Denise drily asks if he is thinking of flying somewhere – he responds seriously that no, he drove in. Denise, on the other hand, is energetic, outgoing, charismatic and bubbly; however, as we later learn, deep down she is unhappy and longs for change. Both characters are instantaneously likeable, and Harker and Bond’s chemistry throughout is a pure joy to watch.
Quite simply, Trestle is beautiful, moving and full of life. Within a short amount of time I am fully invested in its characters’ lives, loves and experiences. I laugh, smile, and feel incredible sadness throughout the performance, and I leave the theatre feeling different; the future which faces everyone on the planet, that of old age, is shown through a wonderful lens in this performance, that of friendship, vitality and humour.
Trestle is playing at Jack Studio Theatre until 26 June 2021. For more information and tickets, see Brockley Jack Theatre’s website.