Review | Bench Presents Again, B, at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant: 'Theatre, it’s good to see you back'
The second night of Bench’s return to the world of theatre after the silence of 2020 comprises four more self-penned, self-directed one-act plays and – to my mind – this selection contained the finest of the eight plays, but more of that later.
Programme B begins with Roger Goldsmith’s Montgomery, directed by Jacquie Penrose with David Penrose as the title character, a hotel desk-clerk and Lorraine Stone as a prostitute who uses a room in the hotel to entertain. Neither character is particularly sympathetic, here, and so it’s hard to make a connection. Penrose’s performance is, unsurprisingly, wonderful, but Montgomery, as written, is not a nice man and one really can’t become involved.
Next on the agenda is Lucy Flannery’s nicely-crafted Bear Hunt in which the nature of grief is explored – and cleverly so. Sally Hartley as Mel and Peter Woodward as Robert respond well to Julie Burt-Wood’s straightforward direction and the twist in the tale is good and clever and very up-to-the-minute. Because of the nature of the piece, Woodward’s struggle with the dialogue and Hartley’s complete inability to help him out was obvious – but that’s a small gripe in an otherwise enjoyable and thought-provoking piece.
Next is Being Neighbourly, written and directed by Jacquie Penrose with Megan Green as Stella. Remember my earlier tease with regard to the finest of the eight plays? Ah! Well – here we are! This is a wonderful bit of writing exploring the innate racism of a declared non-racist. As played by Green, Stella’s unknowing, passive racism is stomach-churningly disturbing. She says she isn’t racist; she believes she isn’t racist and all the time she reeks of the worst of humanity. Excellent.
Lastly the lightest of the evening’s offerings, Mark Wakeman’s absurdist The Spy Who Bugged Me where innocent David (Tyrone Baptiste) is mistaken for a Russian spy by – well – another Russian spy, played by Jo Langfield. This is high comedy indeed, dipping its toes into everything from wordplay to impressions to slapstick. Does it say anything about the meaning of life? No, of course it doesn’t. Does it make you laugh? Well and truly! Langfield’s restraint and Baptiste’s energy work very well together.
Theatre, it’s good to see you back.
Until July 10.