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Review: Wreckage (Turbine Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale

A space for championing new theatre, The Turbine Theatre in Battersea had a great year in 2022, bringing some truly exceptional shows to London including But I’m A Cheerleader and DIVA: Live From Hell. For their first show of what looks set to be an even bigger and better 2023, they have brought the award-winning play Wreckage to London. Could it repeat the success of its 2022 line-up or would the year start with a bit of a car crash?

Wreckage tells the story of Sam (Tom Ratcliffe) and his fiancé Noel (Michael Walters). Their life is suddenly disrupted thanks to an unexpected and tragic accident – the repercussions are felt throughout the years as we watch Sam struggle to continue his life without his partner. A story of love and loss, Wreckage explores what it is like to grieve in a completely raw, no holds barred approach.

Written by Tom Ratcliffe, this could easily have been a one man show exploring Sams grief as he attempts to come to terms with the loss of Noel and somehow move on with his life. The decision to keep Noel on stage with him as a ghost/vision/figment of Sam’s imagination adds an extra layer of emotion to the affair as we watch Sam interact with somebody who isn’t really there. As Noel is a manifestation of Sam’s grief, we see heightened scenes as Sam imagines Noels reaction – never more apparent than in one scene in the middle of the show which sees an extreme and uncomfortable response to a key revelation.

Tom Ratcliffe’s writing is pretty extraordinary. Beautifully and sensitively capturing the complexities behind an unexpected and sudden loss, Wreckage digs deep into complicated and varying emotions to the extent that it even depicts Sam imagining his deceased lovers feelings about him moving on and supposedly forgetting him. This adds layers to the performance, making the whole thing even more captivating to witness.

The seemingly non-linear structure to Wreckage can pack an emotional punch as we journey from intense grief to a completely different moment from the past as Sams memories play out. The choice to have the two cast members snap from one extreme emotion to a completely different one, changing the tone instantaneously may have been jarring in other hands but, in this instance, beautifully adds to the fragility and inconsistency of Sams handling of the situation. Without spoiling it, the final sequence was a testament to both the writing and performance of the piece in a truly moving and emotional end that stayed in my mind long after I left the theatre.

The writing comes to life with Rikki Beadle-Blairs inspired direction. With both performers rooted on the stage throughout the play, the characterisation always proves mesmerising and at times unusual to watch with a special note for the extreme physicality demanded of the performers, in particular Michael Walters’ Noel. The design representing their garden proves a simplistic charm that proves versatile later on, lending itself to one of the most memorable moments of the play.

Having written the show himself, Tom Ratcliffe astounds in his performance as Sam, tapping in to the very deepest depths of the characters conflicted feelings and delivering a phenomenal performance. As he worries he is descending into madness, he manages to convey an at times comedic portrayal, at others heart-breaking in a gritty and realistic depiction of an unimaginable situation.

Michael Walters oozes charisma in his performance as Noel, giving a nuanced portrayal as he gradually changes at the mercy of Sams imagination. His versatility as an actor is showcased as he later plays Sams new boyfriend Christian, at times transitioning from one of Sams lovers to the other in an admirably effortless performance. Together, the pair display a stunning chemistry that packs a gut punch as you feel for the impossible lovers.

Wreckage is a beautiful portrayal of love and loss. Raw and unflinching, it manages to convey some deeply complicated emotions and take the audience through the stages of grief as experienced by our protagonist Sam. This is achieved successfully for the most part thanks to Ratcliffes intricate writing and expressive performance alongside his equally impressive co-star. It’s safe to say Wreckage is anything but a wreck – the condition of my heart, however, after watching this emotional rollercoaster remains to be seen.


Wreckage plays at The Turbine Theatre until 22nd January. Tickets from

Photos by Harlow Playhouse

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