TRAILER/trash - Review
Matthew Taylor – Monkey Kettle
You always know you’re going to get a show when you attend a performance by The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company, and TRAILER/trash was no exception. Set on the back porch of a typical American trailerpark trailer, it features just the two characters – waning stripper Shyanne and confused transgender kid Frankie.
The writer – Mike Elliston – has an incredibly experienced CV as a playwright, and his know-how showed throughout. It was actually billed as both drama and comedy and although there were some genuinely funny exchanges, it was a lot more nuanced than that. As the stories of his two characters emerged, intertwined and developed, I began to hope they would achieve the happy ending of which they increasingly dreamed – although of course life very rarely ends up like that! I look forward to seeing his next collaboration with the company: “Austerity - The Musical”, due this Autumn!
With just two actors on stage throughout, it can sometimes be the case that they are forced to carry a lot of work between them. However, they were more than up to the task. Karlina Grace’s Shyanne was a convincing juxtaposition of brittleness and world-weary warmth, while Ellie Coleman played Frankie with naïve optimism undercut with a sharp edge. These unlikely bedfellows – and I enjoyed the fact that this was never declared to be the literal case – find something in each other’s friendship that makes them feel differently about themselves. Better about themselves. The references to Thelma & Louise were a clever echo of a film to which TRAILER/trash owed a debt thematically but was simultaneously subverting with the more realistic (and less mainstream) characters of Shyanne and Frankie.
I got a real feeling from the production that it had been painstakingly directed by Rosemary Hill – one positive aspect of having a two-person cast is that really detailed work can be done to fine-tune the performances and the staging. Frankie and Shyanne both convinced, and the story bounced along at a pleasing pace.
The MK Gallery Event Space is a venue I have never seen used for theatre before, but it was made to work very well. The staging and set (by Kevin Jenkins) was vividly constructed, the trailer exterior and verandah space seemed at once both natural and filmic. The soundscape which accompanied the play – like the stage equivalent of a movie soundtrack – was atmospheric without being intrusive. Even the noise of the skateboarders outside in Margaret Powell Square somehow added to the down-home ambience, though I’m sure that was a happy accident! James Tearle’s lighting design also formed an integral part to the play – almost a third character at times with its strikingly visual evocation of the sun setting and rising across the trailer park.
All in all, very impressive. A refreshingly ambitious production by a refreshingly ambitious company. and a worthy star of this year’s MK Fringe Festival.