The Trench at Southwark Playhouse
Centrally ,The Trench by Les Enfant Terrible is an epic poem exploring the story of trapped miner William Hackett in a trench in World War One. This is further articulated through physical theatre, music and puppetry, but these elements do not make up for what the narrative lacks: complexity. We follow this character through his mental challenges while being trapped, presented as a little goblin creature with tasks that he must overcome. While the language is evocative and masterful at creating images within the viewer’s head the story seems to follow a classic mould, not presenting itself as an integral part of the play.
The set is well used, wonderfully transporting the characters into an active war zone. It is broken down and built back up smoothly and successfully, with props such as a wooden board used to transport us into cramped trenches simply and effectively. The standout lighting design begins as the audience comes into the theatre, with light seen moving behind the main set piece, creating the illusion of dropping bombs. The beauty of a simple beam to represent the hope of the character is also visually stunning, particularly in a moment of reaching into the light.
The music by Alexander Wolfe – although pleasant-sounding – does not add to the tone of the piece, the guitar and soft singing working paradoxically to the anguish seen on stage. The additional instruments are utilised well throughout the play, the vibrant melody of the violin matched perfectly to the scene it is used in. While the puppets are an interesting addition to the show their movements lack unity, meaning it can be hard to see them as more than just puppets. The same can be said of the shadow puppet projections used in the beginning of the piece; they seemed mismatched and childish.
Although The Trench is visually stimulating, some of the elements seem not to fit, meaning the overall tone is confusing at times, taking away from the theme of the story. This unbalance prevents the audience from getting truly invested in the play, meaning it falls flat instead of packing an emotional punch.
Photo: Rah Petherbridge
The Trench is at Southwark Playhouse from 10th October until 17th November 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for The Trench here: