Pilgrims, Yard Theatre, review: ‘Uneven, but depth of story is worth exploration’

Amanda Wilkin (Rachel) and Jack Monaghan (Dan). Photo by Mark Carline

Amanda Wilkin (Rachel) and Jack Monaghan (Dan). Photo by Mark Carline - Credit: Archant

An historic friendship once bound by a shared passion for climbing is torn apart by another shared passion: for the same woman.

The lure of the mountainside. An historic friendship once bound by a shared passion for climbing is torn apart by another shared passion: for the same woman. In Pilgrims, Elinor Cook’s elliptical, but taut play explores jealousy and identity; purpose and poise; daring and heartbreak.

Utilising a back-and-forth timeline, matters open with Will (Steffan Donnelly) splayed on his back in the middle of a climb. Things have not gone well. His friend Dan (Jack Monaghan) is by his side. Dan quickly appears to hallucinate the appearance of Rachel (Amanda Wilkin).

Time nips back to before the trip and then recedes further to six years before that. It then rushes forward again, before slipping back once more. In shuffling both time and place, a full picture is painted of Will and Dan’s friendship. One is also painted of their meeting with Rachel and subsequent fallout. It is when matters rest on the love triangle that Pilgrims becomes most conventional.

Cook shouldn’t be criticised for not forging new ground here. She might traverse well-worn theatrical tropes, but she executes a consciously opaque resolution and a hazy, dreamlike impression of the story extremely well. The performances are decent and the staging unfussy but effective. The exchanges fizz with an urgent canter, but there is the disappointing recognition that these characters are too self-absorbed and myopic to engender much sympathy.The lack of redeeming traits mitigates against emotional investment. A pity, because there is intelligence underpinning the narrative and a clockwork precision to the framing of the piece.


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Pilgrims is uneven, but the depth within its intricately wound story is worthy of exposure and exploration.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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