I loved Stewart Pringle’s Papatango-winning play when I saw it at the Southwark Playhouse back in 2017, so the news that Matthew Parker would be reviving Trestle for the Maltings Theatre in St Albans was a bright spot last year. They even managed to get into rehearsals for an IRL run late last year but whilst lockdown put the kybosh on that, the production has elegantly turned digital with Simon Nicholas’ set capturing much that is so recognisable from those born of village life.
And whilst I knew it would still resonate thematically – such os the quality of Pringle’s writing – I wasn’t quite as prepared for how differently it would hit in pandemic times. Notions of loneliness and how difficult it can be to admit that to oneself punch so much harder. And the idea that relationships can accrue from momentary but regular contact with people has never felt more real – my longest-standing in-person relationship for the last year is with the mobile florist I buy from every Friday.
So in this new context, Trestle can’t help but feel more poignant. Rather than a blogger and his florist, the play centres on Harry and Denise, both regular users of the village hall in their rural Yorkshire hamlet. They bump into each other every week as he’s leaving and she’s arriving and through little bursts of conversation that gradually grow longer over the weeks and months as some kind of connection builds up between this pair of retirees.
Structurally, the succession of short scenes essentially made up of small talk might not seem so complex but the beauty in the dialogue and particularly through Parker’s direction of it here, is that there is just so, so much unsaid. From sandwich fillings to political stances, Chris Pickles and Jilly Bond do an excellent job in charting this progress but through glances and hesitations, leave us in no doubt at all about how difficult it is to get unstuck from your ways in pursuit of emotional connection, no matter what shape that is.
Trestle is streaming via Maltings Theatre until 10 April 2021.