This recent production of Marietta Kirkbride’s The Long Trick explores a topic that is held close and bitterly to the hearts of many it affects – that of the uneasy relationship between the owners of second ‘holiday’ homes in the sea-side resorts and towns of southern Britain, and the inhabitants that have to live with the collateral and communal fallout of the strange and fragile state of affairs that affects so many of these small towns. While this may, ostensibly, appear a rather niche concern, relevant only to those it directly affects, the constant tension and the study for compromise between the financial concerns of the tourism they bring, and the insouciant approach many holidaymakers take with the regard to the well-being of the communities they disturb serve to address the much more ubiquitous themes of class, money, community, and distributive justice, and provide an interesting battle-ground between the rights of ownership, and the duties of citizens.
Kirkbride’s play allows us to explore the potential consequences of these tensions through the eyes of Tristan, played by Darcy Vanhinsbergh, a petty burglar who robs from these homes during the barren winter months, and his daughter, Kelsey, played by Martha Seignior. When Gale (Jessica Murrain) comes into their lives from outside the little seaside town, she stirs up events that lead us to question the exact rights and wrongs of Tristan’s actions – to what extent do these seasonal interlopers have a duty to engage in the community they only visit once a year, and what right does Tristan have to take matters into his own hands? What is the importance of heritage, and how does an individual go to protect their way of life? It is a curious question to debate within the grounds of a single country, and raises some interesting points about the nature of communal identity.
The story is told with competence through a minimalist set that is manipulated by the actors to affect the space by creating harsh shapes, and the sound and lighting, as well as some folk singing from the actors, work to grant the whole piece a singularly atmospheric feel, of dark water and darker fears, of the uncertainty of the future and a depth of history long forgotten. As they stand in the spotlights, the actors appear curiously isolated, further adding to the prevailing impression of a community in limbo which, for anyone who has yet to visit a sea-side resort out of season, is a chillingly accurate portrayal. The plot provides a reasonable structure for all this to take place, and we are drawn in to the lives of the characters, which build to a dramatic climax, and the actors create enough believability and sympathy for their characters that we are able to care about the events happening to them, even if it does sometimes mean that the key issues sometimes seem a little sidelined.
Overall, a perfectly agreeable production, though perhaps slightly lacking in scope and ambition. The subdued setting, however, does create a style which is able to capture the feeling of incompleteness inherent in the lives of its characters, and the lighting and sound-effects are used to good effect in completing the aesthetic. Combined with a cast who capably bring a much neglected issue to life, and this production is definitely worth a watch. 3/5
Review written by Alex Potts.
The Long Trick is currently showing at The Wardrobe Theatre until Wednesday 1st March. For more information on the production, visit here…