The Trench by Les Enfants Terribles
The Trench by Les Enfants Terribles at Southwark Playhouse
The Trench is a play written and directed by Oliver Lansley. It is inspired by the true story of William Hackett, a miner who was awarded the Victoria Cross. Whilst he was tunnelling towards enemy lines an explosion cut off William Hackett from the rest of the world. In the Trench we meet his odyssey world and the challenges he faces. Hackett in this production is turned into Bert, a miner who is expecting to become a father any day.
The thing that struck me with The Trench is how creative it is, from both the story itself in the Odyssey world to how the story is told. Every single moment of the piece is choreographed down to the tiniest movement. There was beautiful simplicity in a short passage showing the relationship between Bert and the younger miner Collins develop and the passage of time. The use of the wooden boards to show the narrow tunnels was inspired and demonstrated how you don’t always need an expensive set for impact.
The cast of 5 are remarkably talented in so many ways. In a show like The Trench their physicality is paramount and this element is spot on from them all. Writer and director, Oliver Lansley also plays Bert and during the first 50% of the show you don’t hear him speak yet due to his body language you still feel immensely invested in his story. He is the perfect contrast to James Hastings who plays the fresh faced Collins.
One huge success of the show is the puppetry and this is partly down to the puppeteers lead by Edward Cartwright. He vocalises the main puppet who provides the challenges that Hackett must overcome. It is always a sign of success to me with puppetry if you are watching the puppets rather than the puppeteers and I could not take my eyes off these puppets. Even thought they were not intended to be realistic I found myself really believing in the fact that it was them talking and moving of their own accord.
The Trench is a show that cannot be pigeon holed, some may describe it as a play, others a musical due to the songs composed and sung by Alexander Wolfe. They had a slight folk edge, reminding me of some of the numbers from ‘Once.’ His accompaniment helped add atmosphere to an already spine tingling show. The show is told in verse form which in may contexts could be jarring but this simply added to the whimsical otherworldly feel of the show.
Overall this is a show which oozes creativity out of every moment and does so in a way that transfixes the audience from the moment the lights go down right through to the rapturous applause at the end.
The Trench is running until the 17th November at The Southwark Playhouse. Visit their website for tickets and more info.
If you liked this review you might also like the reviews of The Greater Game, Mythic and Say My Name – The Unauthorised Breaking Bad Musical.