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The Trick review at Bush Theatre, London – ‘perceptive and poignant, but halting’

Ani Nelson, Lachele Carl and Sharlene Whyte in The Trick at Bush Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

As his excellent production of Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night closes in the West End, director Roy Alexander Weise turns his hand to another play about the grieving process.

Eve Leigh’s The Trick is, however, a far more impressionistic piece. Mira’s husband Jonah died seven months ago, but he hasn’t yet left her. He’s still hanging around worrying about her lack of appetite and how she’s going to feed the goldfish without him. Mira, frail and vulnerable, can’t bring herself to let him go.

Leigh’s play contains passages of poetic perceptiveness. The final segment, about how the rituals of remembrance are a balm for those left behind, is particularly good in this regard. But this amorphous and fragmented play feels in need of a much tighter production than this one. The pacing is fitful and halting, a large chunk of the relatively short running time is given over to the recital of a folk tale about a shoemaker’s journey to America, and there’s a moment of audience interaction that feels uncomfortable and misjudged. Sharlene Whyte and Ani Nelson, as the various secondary characters, are also underused.

Jemima Robinson’s striking set cleverly couples vaudeville glitz – a fake proscenium and shimmering backdrop – with net-curtained domesticity. David Verrey brings warmth to the role of Jonah and has a nice chemistry with Lachele Carl’s Mira. She, however, feels almost too poised and sparky for a woman about to give up the ghost.

The play is at its best and most poignant when exploring the hollowing of loss and the affront of ageing, but it feels like it would benefit from further development.

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Perceptive and poignant, but halting exploration of ageing, grief and bereavement