Keith (David William Bryan) is grimy and unkempt, the kind of person that hasn’t showered in days and is on the brink of falling apart or exploding. It’s his twitchy eyes and intense, somewhat unhinged, stare that set you on edge. You make a quick judgement as soon as you see him without considering his journey, his side of the story – Trashed is a show that doesn’t let you walk away with your prejudices, but instead gives Keith’s point of view of a life full of heartache and disappointment.
Bryan struggles to connect with his audience at first, but that’s the nature of Sascha Moore’s character. Keith is hard to relate to because he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. From a Northern, working class background, talking about feelings is not something that men traditionally do – it’s seen as being vulnerable when it’s more important to keep your tough guy image intact. But bottling up the rage inevitably leads to frequent outbursts that Bryan delivers with fiery vitriol. He swerves away from grief like the plague, but is more than happy to sit in an inferno of rage and violence. It gets the audience onside because it’s truthful, honest and unashamed.
The light and shade in Trashed comes across in the comedy moments that lift the spirits of Keith and his audience. Every laugh is mischievous and cheeky, brought about by causing havoc and watching it unravel from a distance. Bryan gives a real performance, isn’t afraid to make himself ugly and unlikeable – we warm to him when we see the twinkle in his eye at causing trouble to feel joy. It starts out harmless until it takes a dangerous downturn, the unfortunate summary of Keith’s life. Sometimes you wonder whether some characters are pre-destined to have it harder than others, to be naturally unlucky.
The narrative stalls at times, constantly avoiding the bereavement at hand leads to a repetitive cycle of running away from the emotional baggage into stories of happier times. It conveys the monotony of a lifestyle that doesn’t have any direction, but it often needs a new injection of pace to keep it moving forward. However, once Keith’s missus is caught cheating and Keith plunges into the final downward spiral, the tension and energy quickly escalates. The narrative rushes headlong over a cliff but the performance never feels out of control, such is Bryan’s skill at controlling the pace and force of the unrelenting descent.
Trashed reaches an inflammatory climax that brings about a cliff-hanger end with tumultuous results. It’s a very clever piece of writing to culminate this story in the unfinished, the point at which the audience is left desperate to know more. Moore’s script has real power and impact near its end, a juxtaposition of the gentle bond between Keith and child before even that is swept away from him. It’s a brave, effective onrush in its final moments, one that needs some further strengthening in the middle to produce a truly compelling story.
Trashed plays Underbelly Cowgate as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.