Naomi Wallace: The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek
Prime Cut, Patrick O’ Kane directing.
Words tell us what a thing is, but nothing about a thing. The word apple congers up the image of a piece of fruit, but not where it was grown, who grew it or what that farmer had to go through to do so. American born writer Naomi Wallace tries to give us those very facts about the death of a young girl in her haunting depression era play The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek.
Dalton Chance (Paul Mallon) is a 15 year old boy who does not know what to do with his life, a life that is complicated by Pace Creagan (Pippa Nixon,) an 18 year old that attempts to seduce him into going with her to run the Trestle, a railway bridge over Pope Lick Creek, whilst avoiding a 500 ton train rumbling towards them. The question is though what happened, as Chance ends up in jail and Pace has her head bashed in with signs of a sexual assault. This none linear narrative jumps from the strange relationship that emerges between Chance and Pace, Chance’s experiences in jail, and his parents’ relationship with him and each other, all the while giving snippets of a harrowing story of both this girls death and life in general in 30’s industrial America.
Wallace paints a beautiful picture of an otherwise gruesome time in US history when ***** people were out of work. The lyrical nature of this piece a sign of Wallace’s poetic calibre, making this play sound as much an epic poem as a stage play. The pointlessness of this life is truly captured by Dray Chance (Robert Jezek,) Chance’s Father who, after being laid off by the foundry where he worked, believes he is now invisible. The parallels with modern day America and Northern Ireland are apparent, as both countries’ industrial past has been largely wiped out and in their place a bleak soulless void has immerged that leave people without a place, makes people with a hole in their hearts. Patrick O’ Kane’s direction beyond doubt brings a real sense of truth from the cast, giving a real emotional connection with the characters.
This play, first commissioned for the Actors Theatre of Louisville, went on to win the converted MacArther Fellowship in 1999. The Actors Theatre of Louisville has also commissioned Wallace to write a new piece Things of Dry Hours that will be premièring in the UK next year.
As Prime Cut continue to bring Belfast great theatre such as last years production of Becket’s Endgame, and with their product The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek they have truly added to the overall theatre landscape of this city.