Review: The Trick (Bush Theatre)

Roy Alexander Weise directs Eve Leigh’s play about age, bereavement and death

Lachele Carl (Actor 1) in The Trick
Lachele Carl (Actor 1) in The Trick
© Helen Murray

This is a play about age, bereavement and death by a relatively young playwright, Eve Leigh. It's formally experimental and unusual in the areas it seeks to probe – the way that people trick themselves into believing things that are not there, and the multiple moments of magic in everyday life.

On Jemima Robinson's bright set, decked out like an old-style vaudeville, with a fake proscenium arch at the back, complete with glittering curtains, and a family living room in front, it begins with an act of magic involving a goldfish who seems to come back to life under the ministrations of Woman 1 (Lachele Carl).

All the cast – three women and a man – are known by a number and from that point they enact a series of short scenes that are bound together by an emotional thread of Woman 1's grief for the man (in the text they are also known as Mira and Jonah) who seems to have been her husband and who certainly seems both to be dead but also still present. The cast talk about the moment they realised they were getting old, the woman is harassed by two younger women who seem to be sympathetic but then change their tune, she visits and challenges a psychic, she chats companionably to the man.

As the play progresses, it probes the liminal land between life and death; the way a bereavement can make someone want to give up is contrasted with the body's constant impulse towards life.
The juddering juxtapositions between the different moods of the scenes are uncomfortable and the writing seems sometimes to tug towards a feeling that it can't quite encapsulate. But it is an interesting treatment of a neglected subject and it is directed by Roy Alexander Weise with a careful ear for its humour and its changes of tone.

The cast – very close to the audience since The Trick is performed in the Bush studio – are also confident in the changes of feeling and mood they are asked to undergo. Carl mines a kind angry melancholy as Mira; her telling of Isaac Bashevis Singer's story of the little shoemaker works its own kind of rough magic. David Verrey endows Jonah with warmth as well as wisdom (though he has very little to do) and Ani Nelson and Sharlene Whyte bring a vivacity to many different roles.

Short and punchy, The Trick is a play with many points to make. It doesn't always land them, but it makes a brave attempt.