There are many debates to be had about racism within our current climate. Whilst frequent arguments ensue from the left and the right, the real question is, who remains in the middle? Who exactly is a moderate in today’s world?
This is where Tremor makes it’s impact. It would be easy to dub the work as problematic, since any show tackling this issues would fall into that default. Brad Birch’s latest play triggers these conversations that we should be having today. This two hander, features Tom (Paul Rattray) and Sophie (Lisa Diveney), who have not seen each other for four years. Once a couple, they both survived an incident involving a bus, where over forty people died and they barely made it themselves (though their relationship did not). It is now some four years later and whilst Tom appears to have moved on, Sophie has yet to make that passage. She has finally found him and seeks his forgiveness to the man who caused this disaster (he is dying in hospital).
Lisa Diveney and Paul Rattray
There are several pressing questions the play raises: Is Sophie virtue signalling? Has Tom truly recovered from that day? Could they ever rekindle what they once had? As the play goes on, we sense that all is not what it seems. Reaching the summit of the finale, we see Tom’s mask fall, revealing his true intentions from what occurred on that fatal day. After, I was alive in debate about what Tom’s actions meant and whether his eye bulging final monologue had any real justification. As a reformed racist, how did this effect his new family, who could have been moments away from bumping into his wife, made clear with frequent mobile activity to Tom?
There is a snappy quality to Birch’s play, with frequent interruptions, marked in the text as (/). Whilst they both have much to say, Tom remains unsure why she found him and her own bias lingers. A slight tightening of the script, to make it a solid hour would improve the tension and uncertainty for the characters which develops over this time. It would be easy to mark Sophie as the left and Tom as the right, though these classifications are multi layered, leading to insights from both characters that are not always black and white.
Director David Mercatali, gives us a gripping time in the theatre, tightly presented. The simple set from Hayley Grindle is a miniature bullring, formulating an always probing trial for these two. The lighting from Ace McCarron also reveals all, as the figures never seem to leave its exposure. Sound work from Sam Jones is the quietest I may have ever heard, adding an extra dimension which made me questioned if the sound was from the speakers or the trains outside. Though the show belongs to the two performers, finally crafted by both Rattray and Diveney. Tom is brought to life with a cutting, Scottish manner and Sophie is given a near stern, if frail persona here.
Tremor is mandatory viewing this spring.
Tremor continues at Sherman Theatre till 5th May 2018.
Photo credit: Mark Douet