Tuesday 24th February to Saturday 28th February 2009
Directed by Pete Woodward
To open 2009's celebrations of the Bench Theatre's first 40 years, we present a play by one of this period's finest and most significant writers.
We all have memories ... we think they are true ... don't we?
"Harold Pinter's poetic, Proustian 'Old Times' has the inscrutability of a mysterious picture, and the tension of a good thriller" (The Independent)
"A rare kind of high tension is evident, revealing in 'Old Times' a beautifully controlled and expressive formality" (The Financial Times).
Old Times was dedicated to Peter Hall, to celebrate his 40th birthday, and he directed the first performance by the Royal Shakespeare company in 1971. The play has been revived numerous times in London and the US, and in 2007 Peter Hall directed Neil Pearson, Janie Dee and Susannah Harker in a production which toured the UK.
Its story features only three characters: Deeley, Kate and Anna. On the surface, 'Old Times' offers the simple premise that Anna has come from Italy to visit an old friend Kate, and her husband Deeley in their house by the sea. Yet almost from the beginning there are tensions between the three characters, and an apparent contest for Kate's affection. while hostilities are rarely overtly expressed, the characters seems to be locked in a struggle for power which reaches back in to the past. Through conversations and reminiscences their histories and personalities are exposed, but it seems unlikely that everything we hear is accurate, particularly as many of the accounts contradict each other. The question arises about whose memories are actually true.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Stage Manager||Sally Hartley|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Melanie Cole|
|Lighting Design||Jacquie Penrose|
|Lighting Operation||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Sound Design||Darryl Wakelin|
|Sound Operation||Jacquie Penrose|
|Set Design||Pete Woodward|
|Set Construction||Simon Growcott|
|Poster and Flier Design||Pete Woodward|
I was a student in the early sixties at Portsmouth Art College and during that time a drama group was formed. The first play produced was 'Sgt Musgrave's Dance', in which I played the part of the Bargee, the second was 'The Caretaker' alternating on following nights with 'The Dumb Waiter' and 'Review Sketches' by the then relatively new playwright, Harold Pinter. I played Gus in 'The Dumb Waiter'.
Before all this my experience of theatre was scant; like most of my contemporaries, the cinema was the source of what can loosely be called drama. Being in, as well as watching, Pinter on stage changed that. Since then my admiration for, and enjoyment in, the works of Harold Pinter has remained constant. In my view, he is one of the most significant playwrights of the 20th century.
It therefore seemed most appropriate to propose that one of his plays from the 70s should be included in the Bench Theatre's 40th Anniversary celebrations. Happily, the company agreed and 'Old Times' kicks off the season on February 24th.
The play, essentially about memory and past impressions (both recent and distant) and how elusive and self serving they can be, brings together three people with their own perceptions, but forced somehow to acknowledge their interdependence. Maybe they do... maybe they don't. Like a painting by Mark Rothko this play is witty, humane, deeply satisfying and often indecipherable. A classic, by a master writer - don't miss it.
Bench Theatre begins its 40th Anniversary season with a play at times not so much elusive as unfathomable - and a production that commands attention throughout its modest 75 minutes' playing time. In hands other than Harold Pinter's, the scenario might become a simple love triangle. In his it is more of a possession triangle, with the three characters taking on different perspectives on past relationships.
The play is conversationally low-key, and director Peter Woodward has created a conversationally low key performance. He forces the audience both to listen carefully to the words and observe closely the subtleties of movement that can express just as much.
The story of a married woman who is visited by her only friend from 20 years earlier, the play explores the truth of their past relationships with each other and the husband. It is sometimes useful to imagine what Pinter, a fine actor as well as a master playwright, would himself have made of his male characters, and the likelihood is that he would have been more menacing as Deeley here. Yet Terry Smyth gives a performance that is utterly compelling in its own way - supercilious to the point of obnoxiousness, dark, dirty and defeated.
The female roles offer less scope but Megan Green as the wife and Julie Wood as the visitor are as effective in long speeches as they are in long, silent significant gazes. Until Saturday.
The News, February 2009
This was a tough play for an amateur group to tackle but Bench Theatre Company are no strangers to a challenge. They formed in 1969 and this being their 40th anniversary season they are tackling five productions, one from each decade. Their work ranges from the classics to the contemporary and indeed later in the year are producing a world premiere of a work commissioned through a play writing competition!
Director Peter Woodward excelled with this piece - Pinter at his most obscure! Played in a virtually mono-chromed curtained set - depicting a living room, leather sofas and a large floor length window, in a remote coastal abode. Old Times is restricted to a cast of three - Kate (Megan Green) and Deeley (Terry Smyth) the married couple and Anna (Julie Wood) and opens with Anna placed at the window gazing out to sea, Kate sprawled on the sofa and Deeley relaxing in an armchair. The pace is slow and a torrent of words pour forth from the three characters as they endeavour to rationalise the relationships between each other defining the past and using shared memories to gain control. As Anna says "there are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them they take place". The dialogue evolves but the tensions mount as the tense astute perceptions are made from the past, when 20 years ago Anna and Kate lived together. One is not quite sure whether as house-mates or lovers! Deeley begins to muse and provoke with his lewd comments and he and Anna at times reminisce in bursts of song. The first half concludes with Kate going for a bath! The second half resumes, Kate now in a bathrobe and the jealousies and insecurities rebound.
This is a very surreal play and each member of the cast are to be congratulated for their first class performances. Megan Green as the dreamer and softer of the three, Terry Smyth for his self indulgent and very Pinteresque character and Julie Wood too for her challenging role as the former friend/lover, now visiting from Italy.
Playing to a packed house for this their first night - can highly recommend the play for its faithful rendition of a philosophical work by this highly esteemed playwright, who sadly died last Christmas.
remotegoat, 25th February 2009