Trestle by Stewart Pringle. The Brockley Jack, 410 Brockley Road, SE4 2DH to 26 June 2021. 4****. William Russell.

The Jack is back with this fine production of Trestle, a two act play about two retired people finding love, friendship, and that there is life in old age as they meet weekly in a village hall in Billingham. Harry chairs the local volunteer improving the community group and owns his own never used gavel, Denise teaches Zumba classes, which is dancing for the over fifties. Their friendship develops from the day, mistaking her for a cleaner because of the dowdy coat she is wearing, he helps take down that permanent feature of village halls – the trestle table – so she can carry on. The glory of the evening is not, however, the play which premiered at Southwark in 2017 but the performances by Jilly Bond as Denise, who wears an amazing variety of dance wear once she abandons that awful coat and gets a superb put down to deliver when Harry is treating her as if she were a little dim, and Timothy Harker as Harry, the uptight widower who is inclined not to say boo to a goose but does believe in good work for the community. They are touching, funny and completely credible as she drops her bright facade and his reticence crumbles. The put down, by the way, is when she announces – “I can do complicated – I read the Observer.”
The gimmick about forever having to take down that wretched table – the play consists of tiny scenes – does, however, become a little wearing. Naturally things do not go smoothly, but as the evening proceeds one gets to care for them both. There is a splendid set by Simon Nicholas which reeks of the village halls of England, and Matthew Parker has directed it all briskly and lovingly. For all that it is a terrific play, at a little over an hour and a half plus interval it does go on a bit, and in spite of the plaudits from its past on line – it was transmitted in April from the Maltings Theatre – a straight through, slightly trimmed production might do it better service. However the Jack is back in great style with a production worth the effort to see performed in carefully created social distancing conditions.

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