Benches is the latest offering from Portsmouth writer, Roger Goldsmith. A brand new play; I had no idea what to expect.
The story centres on Tom, an arrogant, unsympathetic businessman. As the plot unravels and we learn he’s harbouring a secret, we begin to understand why he’s this way.
With minimal set, limited props and sound effects, the acting quality is completely exposed. However, in the hands of these six local actors this needn’t be a concern.
All of them impressed with their individual performances.
Stuart Frank as Tom was utterly convincing as the villain initially, creating palpable tension in the first half. In a complete contrast of tone, his second half monologue was sensational. You could hear a pin drop and the audience was clearly moved.
Leigh Cunningham played neurotic Stella effortlessly alongside Phillip Amor, moving as her husband Bill.
Alex Howat, Chris Mills and Lee Backhouse were equally impressive in their roles as three footballing mates, all with clearly defined characters and back-stories.
At the interval, I had no idea what direction the piece was headed in.
At times I felt the multi-strand narrative tried too hard to pull at heartstrings – with so many sub-plots, it felt unrealistic and thus unbelievable at certain points.
That said, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening in a wonderfully delightful venue.