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Mayday Mayday

Radio reviews. Photo: Shutterstock Photo: Shutterstock

Kneehigh Theatre’s current touring production of Rebecca is sparking lively debate with its irreverence. Some theatregoers apparently don’t like their surprises to be very surprising.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is that Tristan Sturrock is still able to bestride the stage as the brooding Maxim de Winter. On May Day 2004 he fell ten feet off a cliff wall and broke his neck. His wife was then expecting their first child and, after risky surgical implantation of rods and screws to hold the bone fragments in place and fend off permanent paralysis, Sturrock began to walk again at the same time his son was taking his first steps.

Misery and drama fuel the creative spirit and by 2012 Sturrock had fed the experience into his one-man show, debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe. This performance demanded ingenuity: he was patient and surgeon, victim and rescuer; dinky models of ambulances, helicopters and skeletons brought charm.

Adapting and directing for radio, Becky Ripley has elected to give a platform to the family, nurses, surgeon and former army medic (who saved Sturrock’s life as he lay helpless in the dark). The danger is that the piece veers too much into docudrama but their testimony is delivered with pace and even comedy.

The experts provide an objective counterpoint to Sturrock’s own bed-bound perspective – initially the ceiling tiles to which his wife pins an ultrasound picture of their developing baby. This, the ultimate emblem of hope, is one of several which contribute to Sturrock’s positivism; he never forgets, though, fellow patients who have been less lucky.

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Private drama of recovery from paralysis recounted with optimism and humour