One of the more welcome developments in the Arts in recent years is the rise of regional theatre companies with their own distinctive stories. Bucket Club, who hail from Farnham Maltings, are currently performing The Long Trick, their latest play at the Vault Festival in London. Written by Marietta Kirkbride and directed by Nel Crouch, The Long Trick revolves around Gale (Jessica Murrain) an educated bohemian who is tutor to 14-year-old Kelsey (Martha Seignior) at the behest of her father, the boatman Tristan (Darcy Vanhinsbergh).
In the Cornwall of this play, rumours and folklore are one and the same, as there is talk of a ‘Robin Hood-type’ figure who redistributes the wealth of the affluent to ‘those in need’. After a spell of living away from Tristan’s boat, Gale is invited to ‘stay’. This, however, has long-term implications on the dynamic on the boat and what they do to pass the time…
Gentrification and the Southwest’s uneasy relationship with the Capital (ie, the best properties and land being bought by the financial elite from London) is a palpable itch the play tries to scratch. London papers often comment on the amount of prime real estate bought by the Super-Rich from overseas, at the expense of those who struggle to find somewhere affordable to live in the Capital. The pattern repeats itself in Cornwall and elsewhere in the UK with London’s own richest buying their ‘second homes’ – abodes rarely visited during the year. Small wonder then that boatbound Tristan is angry at this state of affairs and that Gale’s encouragement for a potential ‘job’ has more than a ring of natural justice about, as if he’s being guided…
Kirkbride’s three principal characters are well-cast and well-written. Deprived of any female role models, it’s natural that Kelsey latches onto Gale as her surrogate older sister/mother. With a ‘hit-and-miss’ attendance at school and very few people who are ‘really’ part of her life, Kelsey, like her houseboat, veers between moments of purpose and long stretches of ‘drifting’. Her father Tristan is straightforward in the sense that he knows his own mind and by his own standards at least, lives by a comprehensible ‘code’. Vanhinsbergh gives him a dry sense of humour and a wry way of looking at things. As for Gale herself, while her presence has undoubtedly made a lasting impression on Kelsey and in some ways encourages Tristan to ‘throw caution to the wind’, there is still much to know about her. We know she has done X, Y and Z, but what really drives her ‘to fight injustice’? What prompted her initial exodus from London to different communes across Europe?
You know sometimes from the first couple of lines of dialogue you hear that you’re going to like a play? The Long Trick is one such example. Possesssing a distinctive voice, interesting characters and a topical, national issue, The Long Trick is simultaneously ‘very now’ and perenially relevant.
© Michael Davis 2017
The Long Trick runs at the Vault Festival, London until 26th Feb, 19:45, £12.
Matinee 25th Feb, 15:00