The Long Trick, VAULT Festival

Tristan is the stuff of Cornish legends. The Robin Hood-esque figure who lives along the Helford River gives much needed gifts to local people the moment they reach utter despair – or so people believe. The reality is rather different. Tristan does live on the Helford, on a boat with his teenaged daughter Kelsey. He can’t find a job so steals electronics from second homes and sells them on to make a living. He occasionally helps out locals when he’s feeling flush, but his virtue is up for debate. When Tristan meets Gale, a vegan activist who suddenly appears in Cornwall after years of drifting around Europe, his world is transformed, but not quite in the manner he expects.

Their story, told primarily through music, poetry and narration, is an evocative piece of theatrical storytelling crafted with sophistication and skill. Marietta Kirkbride’s script uses conventional dialogue as well, but this form isn’t favoured. The story flows from one mode of delivery to another, held together with a well-developed and robust story. Combined with Nel Crouch’s direction, The Long Trick weaves together the stories of the three characters, giving them equal weight and importance. The story is straightforward but powerful and nuanced, with depth coming from characterisation rather than plot. Kirkbride’s gently lyrical poetry and Cornish folk songs combine with contemporary references to capture a world that straddles the old and the new, the forgotten and the fiercely independent.

The cast are excellent. Martha Seignior is a totally believable teenager, angsty but sweet at heart. She has a subtle character arc and is occasionally dwarfed by Gale and Tristan’s stories, but she really shines at the end. Darcy Vanhinsbergh is the moody Tristan; though occasionally too internal, he provides great contrast to the other characters. Jessica Murrain is a vibrant Gale, full of love for both Tristan and Kelsey. Kirkbride gives her the most surprising storyline that feels somewhat contrived but not wholly unbelievable.

With rustic, skeletal platforms constantly evolving into various bits of location and furniture, the focus of The Long Trick is very much on the story. It’s montage of styles are used skilfully, and clear transitions keep it from dissolving into a watery mess. Precise delivery and the favouring of simplicity over multiple plot threads makes this a polished, moving production with a powerfully lingering effect.

The Long Trick runs through 26 February.

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