Review: The Man with the Luggage  

Trestle Theatre Company prides itself on innovative storytelling and the team’s latest work The Man with the Luggage continues the team’s high standards of presentation in words, movement and song.
Director Oliver Jones discovered the play by Eugene Ionesco in 1975, and has finally realised his wish to present the work. He has said that the original was unstageable so he pulled in writer Lizzie Nunnery to work on the play. Jones said: ‘I had the idea of using the themes, and the atmosphere of the piece, but fusing it with contemporary stories of migration and repatriation. This led me to take inspiration from the Balkan conflict of the 1990s, of using the visual and physical style of Trestle and Blindeye [Theatre Company}, and of working closely with a writer to tell an original story.’
And so the tightly-packed audience at the ultra-modern black box that is the New Diarama Theatre in London was treated to a moving tale of loss, displacement and love in war. We are so close to the players that we truly feel part of Damir’s journey back home to his village and his sweetheart Ema (Nicole Lewis).
Through the eyes of Damir (Nicholas Tizzard), we see how ‘this war is cruel to the many and the few’ from the terror of losing his papers to the couple’s final, bittersweet reunion. The border has been redrawn, people have different loyalties, friends are now enemies.
Tizzard, Lewis and John Cockerill are a hyper-talented and versatile trio of players. Their depiction of the opening train journey portrayed the depression and fatiguing nature of an interminable trip was marvellous, while their masked dance highlighted our common humanity – unmasked and the divisions and factions are once again revealed. The scene in the makeshift garden where old ladies were planting flowers in suitcases worked really well. Tizzard excelled as Damir, displaying a range of emotions from joy to horror that hit you in the heart.

The Man with the Luggage also continues Trestle’s trend for producing theatre outside of the traditional curriculum and should be seen by theatre goers of all ages.
Nunnery produced a script that remains relevant. She said of the play while in development: ‘We began to imagine a show that retained this wonderful absurdity; that told a similar story of a man’s journey home across shifting landscape, assaulted on all sides by authority and harsh terrain; but that also presented a complex and empathetic human journey.’
This is a moving piece of theatre that deserves to be seen. My seasoned young companion loved the play – once again the only person under 20 at a press night, which was a real pity. She watched with intensity and accepted all the devices of storytelling – from the hilarious motorbike scene to the surreal blue fish. In short, Trestle continue to produce touching, relevant work, outside of the norm, and The Man with the Luggage is no exception.

Trestle performs The Man with the Luggage at the Capstone Theatre in Liverpool (December 6-7) and at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury (December 8-10).