GRIP at Tristan Bates Theatre Review
For five nights only, Nothing to Perform brings us original new writing GRIP, a reworking of their previous Play 2, delving deep into matters of masculinity and society pressures in a gritty, intense hour of performance. GRIP pulls us into the life of Trev, a young man struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother and his father’s desperate need for connection, and how he navigates the sexism and racism of a society in which he is deemed the perpetrator. Director Harriet Taylor has amplified the nuances of Trev’s inner conflict using physical theatre – at the narrator’s demand, each character twitches and shudders, tics that continue throughout the performance – the toothpick chewing narrator (Gaz Hayden) leading us through Trev’s story in a sneering, uncomfortable manner.
Scott Howland – the author of GRIP and Play 2, and the actor portraying Trev – creates in Trev the ultimate protagonist; despite bursts of anger, he is good-natured, well-meaning and sympathetic. We understand his guilt and bitterness at feeling constantly accused, and emphasise with the loss of his mother, and the difficulty of addressing grief and hurt in mal relationships, and we stay close with him until the end, thanks to Howland’s engaging performance. However, the play itself seems to stray too far into commenting on criminal justice, instead of Trev himself and the real impact of loss; here, the story weakens slightly.
Standout performances also include Hayden’s vicious narrator; looming over each character and whispering lines into their ear. He’s an intimidating presence throughout, and a constant devil on Trev’s shoulder. Kristin Winters is also a brilliant addition to the cast; as a police officer, she lingers quietly in the background, coming to life in the interview room where her questions are cold, calculated and unforgiving.
GRIP is a curious – though not entirely convincing – take on the recent controversies involving the #MeToo movement and social commentary on the criminal justice system; but despite some shaky ground, in the end GRIP finds its strength exploring the prison sentence of masculinity and here is where Nothing to Perform delivers.