The Trunk review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘resonant rumination’

Trunk publicity image

In The Trunk, writer-performer Max Dickins turns a sweet little anecdote into a resonant rumination on the nature of memory and the stories we choose to hold onto and those we choose to forget.

He plays a junior clerk in a coroner’s office handling the paperwork on an old woman who died alone, her only notable estate being a trunk of old letters and memorabilia and a fresh letter evidently meant for a child she gave up for adoption.

The clerk sets off to find this next-of-kin, a process that begins with learning what he can about the mother. This is where Dickins deftly expands on the small story, as every step raises larger thoughts about how we lose or hold on to the past.

He learns that the woman enjoyed telling tall tales about herself, making everything he uncovers suspect. An estranged sister is clearly hiding family secrets. One line of enquiry takes him to Bletchley Park, creating resonant imagery of secrets broken and kept. Through all of this, the speaker’s grandfather is beginning to succumb to dementia, a reminder of our tenuous hold on the past.

Working in the corner of a small venue, Dickins has just the titular trunk and a hook to hang some clothes on, creating the rest with his words. He tells the story with grace and good humour, and sensitively captures the excitement of someone who increasingly senses that he’s doing something meaningful and that it is important to him to complete the quest.

A resonant story of rediscovering a lost past told with engaging charm