Last Updated on 18th February 2023
Paul T Davies reviews Tom Ratcliffe’s play Wreckage directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
17 February 2023
Mercury Theatre Colchester Website
After a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, it’s a relief to finally catch up with Tom Ratcliffe’s play about a gay love affair both in life and the afterlife. The Wreckage is the car crash in which Sam’s partner, Noel, is killed. This isn’t a spoiler, it opens the play, and is repeated several times in a highly arresting sequence. Ratcliffe, also performing as Sam, takes us backward and forward in time, from when they first meet to Sam’s life without Noel, but he can still see and hear him.
The episodic nature of the play means, for me, it is initially tricky to get a handle on their relationship. There are perhaps too many scenes, and the play and their relationship feels a little fleeting. Of course, most of their relationship is when Sam has to live alone, with Noel always a presence, and here the play really grows. Both Ratcliffe and Michael Walters as Noel, (and then Sam’s life partner Christian), perform passionately, playing the gentle nuances of the script beautifully. However, occasionally the acting is a little histrionic, especially when Sam is tearing down the garden in anger at Noel, and the volume is high, and diction is lost. Walters also, at least at first, doesn’t make a clearer distinction between his two characters, initially confusing. But as time progresses and momentous moments in Sam’s life are effectively projected behind them, (a strong aspect this), the play becomes very moving, and, if you have faith, the name Christian takes on significance.
Rikki Beadle-Blair’s excellent direction and design keeps the pace taut, and places love firmly at the centre. As the pace slows the strength of the relationship and the script begin to emerge, and it spoke to many people in the audience, regardless of sexual orientation. We never lose those we truly love.