Sophie has tracked down her ex-partner Tom, after 4 years. Turning up on his doorstep out of the blue, it’s clear that he’s surprised and somewhat thrown by her appearance. The initial dialogue between them is stilted and almost monosyllabic. It feels awkward, but this may be a device to ensure that the audience shares in the couple’s discomfort.
Such is the opening of Tremor, a new play written by Brad Birch and brought to Edinburgh by the Sherman Theatre Cardiff. Performed in the round with no props, the focus is purely on the dialogue and the interaction between Tom (Paul Rattray) and Sophie (Louise Collins). As the couple move around the stage, this allows each part of the audience to focus on them both and their very different perspective on the same event. The performances are good, with clear diction, some good pacing and a believable sense of a past relationship between them.
As the play progresses we learn the reason for Sophie’s visit and also of the common tragedy that forced this couple apart: a horrific bus crash, from which there were few survivors. Sophie has come in search of Tom at the request of the bus driver, who is seeking absolution from them both. Yet it becomes clear that Tom has been instrumental in the conviction of the bus driver for drink-driving, a scandal, further exacerbated by the drivers Muslim faith. Was the driver drunk or was this Tom’s way of processing the tragic event? We never know.
This is a tale of survivor’s guilt, which has manifested itself in different ways for both characters. Possibly the key point is that neither have been left unscathed. Sophie is finding it hard to move on and superficially Tom’s life is in a better place: however, its soon clear that Tom has been equally affected and both seem to have been taken advantage of, as others sought to politicize the events. In the end it’s a tragedy for everyone concerned: both the victims and the survivors.
Tremor touches on a number of difficult issues. The story is quite complex and Birch leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It will leave you pondering which, if either character you believe or trust.