From the team that gave us last year’s From Today Everything Changes, Ian Tucker-Bell’s Trans Pennine once again uses personal testimony to inspire new writing. Here we meet Ben, who along with his sister Victoria are embarking on a journey to scatter his mother’s ashes. Joining them reluctantly is Dave, their curmudgeonly father who loathed his wife and has a problematic relationship with his children.
Tucker-Bell’s play is a beguiling story about dysfunctional families and their long kept secrets. Nick Blessly’s Dave is an enigma, with enough vitriol in him to make Victor Meldrew seem utterly charming. His tirades, aimed chiefly at his dead wife, are perhaps a little over-the-top but it adds to the comedy and provides an appropriate contrast to Ben’s story. Ben, played with gentle honesty by Tucker-Bell, has been secretly cross-dressing since his teenage years and now plans to live as a woman.
On a point of style, the script his hampered by wholly unnecessary meta asides that insult the audiences intelligence and do nothing to enhance the characters. Thankfully much of the business appears early and it doesn’t impact heavily on the drama which otherwise, save for an unbelievable change of heart in Dave, is rather beautiful.