“Well it’s all a bit of a mess.” The first words of Ian Dixon Potter’s new monologue Trivial Dispute in the Tales From The Golden Age series really do set the scene. Not only for the story about to unfold, but also for the times we find ourselves in; messy, uncertain, isolating.
Whether we consume media online, on the TV or radio, this monologue has been delivered online as a necessity rather than a preferred medium. However, there has always been something about the intimacy of solo performances that fascinates me – the idea of listening to another person’s story without interruption.
It’s a difficult task to keep the attention of an audience, even with a likeable character, but to tell a story through the eyes of a protagonist whom we find arrogant and repulsive is a true skill. A skill which relies heavily on the director and the actor to find a rhythm which pushes you away before clawing you back in as the stakes stack higher and higher.
Trivial Dispute is a play about, well about many things; Britain, Brexit, vintage cars, and social media etiquette. To boil it down to its essence, in the words of our protagonist Trevor, it’s “all about reputation”.
Trevor, played by Neil Summerville, is exactly that – a man of reputation. A former mechanic turned self-made millionaire, Trevor enjoys something of a celebrity standing in his community. However, when we meet him, his superiority seems to be in tatters. He is sitting across from us at a metal table, white plastic water cup in front of him, in a setting that looks like a police interview. This emotionally unsettled and nervous Trevor stands in stark contrast to the man he portrays himself to be.
In the story he tells of his current situation, Trevor, as a card-carrying member of the Tory party since Thatcher days and a keen Brexiteer, sees his status challenged by the arrival of Ewan. Described by Trevor as a typical ‘Remoaner’, Ewan intrudes on Trevor’s sense of comfort and superiority until their differences become too much for Trevor to handle.
Summerville gives an excellent portrayal of the self-obsessed Trevor. Giving his character some bite at the right moments, Summerville manages to make Trevor not entirely pleasant, but frustratingly interesting. Dixon Potter challenges the viewer to sit back and listen to Trevor’s testimony without interrupting. The conflict is as much between Trevor and Ewan, as it is between Trevor and the audience.
A conflict born from two very different worlds suddenly forced together, neither party engaging or immersing themselves in the other. For, although only seen through Trevor’s eyes, Ewan, the intellectual liberal, doesn’t appear in a much better light than Trevor.
With the end reveal in mind, maybe Trevor could have shown more signs of acknowledging where he could have done things differently, perhaps there could’ve been earlier flickers of guilt. Although he remains resolute in his superior status.
Trivial Dispute is a play that lingers with you. I spent a long time turning the characters of Trevor and Ewan over and over in my mind. Their differences should not lead to such a heated conflict, but in Dixon Potter’s world, their differences aren’t exactly trivial.
Trivial Dispute is available on the Golden Age Theatre YouTube channel. For more information, see the Golden Age Theatre website.