Two young men stand on a motorway bridge and talk about life. It doesn’t sound like much but in this riveting new play, written and directed by Sarah Nelson, Liam and Jacob talk about everything from sex to sandwiches, plumb the depths of life in the modern world, and receive a standing ovation every night. 

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Liam, played by Dean Smith, is returning from work late at night when he comes across Jacob (Tom Gibbons) poised to throw himself off the bridge and under the wheels of a truck. There are signs that Jacob doesn’t really want to do it and, after a hard day at work, saving him is the last thing Liam wants to do. But he has no choice.  

Bridge. Photo by Sarah Nelson.

At Ilkley Playhouse, Smith gives Liam a nervy anxious intensity which he is constantly trying to master. The reasons for this are unclear until almost at the end when, in an extraordinary speech, everything is revealed.   

Jacob is all passion. He’s passionate about everything, but passion has its downside and feeling too much has brought him to wanting to feel nothing. Gibbons gives us all this and more in a fine, nuanced performance which shows us that Jacob knows all of his contradictions and feels them.  

At a time when most theatres are offering distractions from what is the most significant and potentially disastrous political period of my 75 years, Nelson writes vivid, compelling and extremely funny plays about the lives of young men now. Her play Letter to Boddah about two young white men in a disabled toilet in Tesco, changing into army fatigues because they are going to blow it and themselves up, won the Broadway Baby award for best show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, and that’s out of 2,000 theatre shows. Audience members said it had changed their lives.  

Bridge is a worthy successor. It too is vivid, funny, and deeply moving. I understand the desire to put our heads under the covers and hide from reality in musicals and comedies, but stick your head above the parapet. Go and see two fine actors working at the top of their bent in a story about how we live now. You won’t forget it. 

By Chris Wallis, Theatre Editor

Main image by Sarah Nelson


Bridge is on tour to East Riding Theatre on June 4, 2024 and Scunthorpe Plowright Theatre on June 6, 2024. More dates to be announced.