Trout Stanley

Claudia Dey
Southwark Playhouse

Sinead Matthews, Vinette Robinson Credit: Helen Murray
Sinead Matthews, Dylan Smith Credit: Helen Murray
Vinette Robinson, Dylan Smith Credit: Helen Murray

The Canadian wilds of British Columbia seem to breed a strange variety of the human species, if the sample featured in Trout Stanley are representative.

Over and above a well-developed tendency towards eccentricity, what this trio has in common is a love of declaiming and an aversion to the human race.

The drama is set in the sparse home of twin sisters Grace and Sugar Ducharmes on the occasion of their thirtieth birthday. In fact, they are almost triplets, having lost a third sister whom they have named Duckling, at birth.

Tragedy has dogged the family on this fated anniversary ever since, as their parents died almost simultaneously 20 years before and, each year since, coincidentally some random local stranger has passed away.

On this special occasion, the TV reports refer to the disappearance of a multitalented unfortunate who is quickly referred to by the birthday girls as the Scrabble champ stripper.

Oddity abounds as Sinéad Matthews, playing reclusive Sugar, dreams of marriage to a daytime TV doctor, while never emerging to confront real life.

She is sheltered by Vinette Robinson's contradictory Grace, a poster queen who spends her days managing a garbage facility.

Into this insular life, which can seem like a Canadian version of Philip Ridley's favourite milieux, steps the eponymous weirdo.

Bearded Trout was orphaned early and seems to have been wandering for years. His descriptions of life seem unlikely but, since Dylan Smith's rather spooky character goes to such pains to remind us that he cannot tell a lie, presumably they must be believed.

He helpfully introduces a modicum of love and worldliness to the sisters during a birthday to remember for all three, as well as the unfortunate stripper.

Trout Stanley is built on stories although it is never clear whether each member of the group is inventing their own individual bizarre history or relating their experiences accurately.

If this piece is representative, the highly regarded Claudia Dey, an advice columnist as well as a playwright, is much stronger on speech-writing than keeping a coherent story going. This gives each of the actors a number of chances to shine, under the direction of London-based Canadian Matt Steinberg, during a couple of hours of rather dark fantasy.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher