EdFringe 2022 Review: Wreckage

Tom Ratcliffe’s Wreckage takes residency at Summerhall’s Red Lecture Hall for the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The beautifully-pitched two-hander examines the transgressive nature of relationships and grief with a truly heartaching emotional conviction which will undoubtedly leave no dry eye in the house.

Sam and his fiancé Noel (Michael Walters) have their whole life ahead of them – the dream house, no shortage of plans together, and even their own house cat. However, a devastating car accident creates a permanent split in the pair’s relationship, with Sam (Ratcliffe) forced to navigate the rest of his life without Noel. With Noel’s memory and influence permeating Sam’s everyday life, Wreckage explores the challenges of navigating a future without your other half.

Rikki Beadle-Blair directs based on an original work by Ratcliffe managing to utilise impressive visuals and staging to further draw us into this emotionally complex, heartfelt piece. A calendar appearing on the projected screen behind the performers give us a clear indication of the time before and after the accident, further grounding the narrative, whilst sparingly used video footage capturing the early days of Noel and Sam’s romance contributes further emotional footing. The boldness of the sound design, particularly that capturing the destructive crashing and smashing of the traumatic car accident, provides a haunting reminder of the tragedy that tears through Sam and Noel’s relationship.

Wreckage explores its rich emotional tapestry in a number of hard-hitting ways. Sam’s grieving is embodied in anger, frustration, guilt and abandonment, which all pulse through the character at various stages. Inventively Wreckage utilises the physical presence of Noel, in actor Michael Walters, to capture Sam’s ever-changing emotional struggle. Gut-wrenching challenges upon moving on – moving homes, returning to the world of dating, communication with former in-laws, coping with unknown revelations, and manoeuvring life without the person you thought you would spend it with, all prove complex movements for Sam. The physical manifestation of Noel in these scenes adds further emotional depth, Sam able to directly confront, reminisce or reflect with his lost partner in these moments.

Wreckage utilises a number of impressively pitched narrative elements to capture Sam’s ever transitioning journey such as Sam playing the events of handing his keys to to Noel several times – but with slight changes capturing his evolving headspace. In tackling the idea of memories of a passed love one fading shown in the changing manner in which Sam communicates with Noel, Wreckage makes several savvy musings about grief and the changing canvases of our lives – initially exploring this in Noel’s role of comfort to Sam, it soon transitions into one of desperation to be remembered and engaged with. Walters captures this with a strong emotive conviction.

Ratcliffe’s narrative does have an underlying thread of hopefulness, captured in a magnificently poignant crescendo that packs the emotional weight of a sledgehammer. There really is not a dry eye in the house by Wreckage’s note-perfect final act which observes how we connect with grief over the passage of time. Ratcliffe’s masterful turn confidently allows us to empathise with Sam’s fluctuating emotional states, the full level of its depth and Sam’s resilience being peeled away as Wreckage progresses.

Wreckage is a compelling piece of theatre. Ratcliffe’s rich emotional brushstrokes draw us into the raw, absorbing story of Sam and Noel tackling complex emotion in a striking, beautifully grounded human manner.

Wreckage runs until August 28th at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at Summerhall. You can get tickets here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *