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A CurtainUp London Review
" We're not here forever. You've got to take a chance from time to time. Sometimes you've got to see something you like and grab hold. Don't let it go." — Denise
Connie Walker as Denise and Gary Lilburn as Harry (Photo: George Turvey)
Trestle won the Papatango prize for new playwriting in 2017 with Stewart Pringle's tender but realistic story of two people who meet by chance on a regular basis. He is retired, a recent widower and chairs a group of political activists who meet weekly to look at ways of enhancing their local community. She is the organiser and teacher of a Zumba exercise class. They meet for the first time putting away the hall chairs and the trestle table in the time between the two hall bookings.

At first, their conversation is stiff and stilted as he takes her for the cleaner and she explains she "doesn't do" chairs. When he realises his mistake, he apologises profusely. They meet each Thursday for a few minutes like this, two people, who although they both live in a small Yorkshire village, would not normally connect. He, Harry (Gary Lilburn) is polite and respectful. She, Denise (Connie Walker) is more feisty and outspoken and seems younger than the script states.

They start to bond over the sandwiches they both bring: Denise to have enough energy after a long day to run the energetic Zumba class, Harry to share with her and show how delicious the roast beef, he has cooked, is. The connection is mildly flirtatious and they turn it into a guessing game by blindfolding each other and tasting what could be in the unusual sandwich combination. Having exchanged sandwiches, Denise and Harry try each other's sessions for a new perspective.

The play is this series of snapshots of the few minutes they converse with each other. By week 12, he has called at her house about where to leave the hall keys and was disappointed when her husband answered the door and there are a few awkward moments of misunderstanding. As they get to know each other, they also discover how different they are in outlook.

These encounters expose the rawness and emptiness of Harry's life as a widower and Denise's boredom with her own life and ambition to write a novel. Ostensibly he's fully occupied during the week with running sessions at the Citizens Advice Bureau but is obviously missing a significant other in his life. Denise enjoys the rapport but her friendliness is clutched at by Harry as he romanticises her.

The performances are delicate and evocative exploring what might be missing in our lives as we approach old age and cope with lifestyle changes of leaving employment and being widowed. In this beautifully written anatomy of an unlikely relationship, the playwright has introduced a gentle humour and revelations about the mystery of communication and connection.

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Trestle by Stewart Pringle
Directed by Cathal Cleary
Starring: Gary Lilburn, Connie Walker
Design: Frankie Bradshaw
Lighting Design: Johanna Town
Music and Sound Design: Richard Hammarton
Running time: One hour 20 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking to 25th November 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 3rd November 2017 performance at the Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway London SE1 6BD (Tube: Elephant and Castle)
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