Review | Bench Presents Again at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant: 'One of the most creative of the local companies'

For the first time in over a year, I’ve been to the theatre.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 12:01 pm
Bench Presents Again is at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant, from July 6-10, 2021
Bench Presents Again is at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant, from July 6-10, 2021

Bench Theatre, one of the most creative of the local companies, are back at The Spring in Havant with two evenings of self-penned, self-directed work. Frankly, even if it had been awful, after the theatrical drought forced upon us by 2020, I’d have been delirious. However, Programme A – the first of the evenings – was far from awful. It was unpredictable, funny and even a little terrifying in places.

Programme A begins with Face the Music by Jacquie Penrose, a nice, honest and genuine exploration of what happens when friendship suddenly isn’t friendship anymore, unexpectedly, surprisingly and border-crossingly changing its form. Alex Eels and Emily Goodden deliver nicely under Jacquie Penrose’s direction, coping admirably with the distancing restrictions.

Second is David Penrose in Lucy Flannery’s sublime New Year’s Day. The text is probably the richest of the four plays and the journey taken the cleverest. I love a piece of theatre that presents you with a ludicrous scenario, expects you to engage fully, without questioning, and wait for the situation to explain itself. Flannery and Penrose deliver, again under the direction of Jacquie Penrose.

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Thirdly comes Issie and Dora by Stephen Mollett. This is an oddy-but-goody. Just as you think you know where it’s going there’s a sharp change of direction. This piece offers laughs but a sudden chilling twist at the end. Sue Dawes’ direction is minimal and Di Wallsgrove as Dora takes the script and runs, twisting and turning with it. If I could ask one thing from her, it would be to direct more of the conversation to Emily Goodden, sharing the stage with her, rather than playing it out front.

Lastly on this first evening was Lucy Flannery’s Bad Day At The Office, directed by Claire Lyne. Here, Megan Green’s HR Manager is carrying out a work-review for Alan Welton. To name Welton’s character is to throw a huge spoiler-shaped spanner into the works, which is bad form from any reviewer. Suffice it to say that he’s no run-of-the-mill worker! This one, occasionally, felt perilously under-rehearsed and one got the feeling that lines were being dropped. As a result it didn’t wholly hang together.

That said – it’s been a year since any of these people, since any of our local actors, have had a chance to perform.

Should there be seats available, please try to get along. Sitting in a theatre again feels very good indeed.

Programme A is performed on July 8 at 7.30pm and 10 at 2.30pm.

Programme B will be performed on July 7, 9 and 10 at 7.30pm.