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Tremor review at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff – ‘intriguing but problematic’

Lisa Diveney as Sophie in Tremor at the Sherman Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet Lisa Diveney as Sophie in Tremor at the Sherman Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet

Sherman Theatre has become one of the UK’s most exciting producing houses in the past few years. Recent successes have drilled microscopically into the very human tragedies that ferment deep beneath the sensationalist headlines and social media clickbait to which we’ve become complacently desensitised. Following Rachel O’Riordan and Gary Owen’s Iphigenia In Splott and Killology, the director-writer baton is passed to David Mercatali and Brad Birch for this new play exploring the repercussions of institutionalised prejudice. It is told, like its predecessors, through the prism of a small-scale human story.

Tremor sees Tom (Paul Rattray) receiving an unwanted visit from his ex, Sophie (Lisa Diveney). Sophie can’t let go of a tragedy they shared four years earlier; Tom is desperate to keep it in the past and to get Sophie out of his house before his wife and toddler return.

It’s an hour’s conversation played in real time, and Mercatali embeds the naturalism of the two characters’ exchange within an absurdist quasi-lunar landscape (Hayley Grindle and Ace McCarron’s pleasing design), as if marooned with their unwanted past. Diveney and Rattray excel in their portrayal of ex-lovers inextricably linked and divided by past actions. There’s real tension in the pair’s sparring, both seemingly gaining the upper hand at different points.

Sadly, though, Birch’s slow-burning script lurches to a strangely hurried ending that’s rather too on-the-nose politically. Any ambiguity suddenly crumbles away, even rounded off with familiar political slogans to clunkily underline the play’s message. An unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise intriguing play.

 

Verdict
Exciting performances and resonant themes let down by problematic ending
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