Thursday 21st September to Saturday 23rd September 2000
Produced by Nathan Chapman
Bench Theatre presents three experimental evenings of branch new talent in the form of SUPERNOVA. Nine new short plays by local writers over three nights, all directed and performed to the highest standard by one of the southern region's foremost amateur theatre companies.
Boasting a rich mix of theatrical styles from modern drama, through situation comedy to the Theatre of the Absurd, SUPERNOVA is a rare opportunity to see perhaps the literary talent of the future right on your doorstep.
|Voice||Alan Welton |
|Mrs Waring||Janet Turley|
|Councillor Blackash||Tim Taylor|
|Mrs Arkwright||Janet Simpson|
|Killer 1||Alan Welton|
|Killer 2||Paul Davies|
These plays were staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. Each play was performed once with the programme as follows:
Love Among the Dinosaurs
On Hot Summer Days
Sisters Under the Skin
Unto Us a Child is Born
|Stage Manager||Zoë Corrigan|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Glenda Penny |
|Sound Operator||Simon Walton|
|Lighting Operator||Peter Corrigan|
|Technical Assistance||Mike Francis |
|Digital Sound Recording and Editing||Martin Stevens|
|Publicity||Nathan Chapman |
|The voice of supernova||Glenda Penny|
|Front of House||Sam Emery|
Shakespeare, Pinter, Beckett, Miller, Sophocles: great playwrights one and all. But they all had to start somewhere. It is a sad fact that in the theatre industry the first step towards success and recognition is the hardest, established avenues seem constantly blocked and finding a way in owes as much to luck as it does to ability. I myself have aspirations of making a living as a writer of plays, and I have experienced first hand just how impossible this ambition appears. It is very easy to give up before you have even started, as the first dozen rejection letters further stamp into the ground an artist's fragile ego. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the only way to enter the theatre is to bypass the established, impenetrable niches and create your own. It was out of my own desire and frustration that the idea for Supernova was born. When I joined the Bench to co-direct King Lear last year, it seemed that this was a company that was not afraid to take risks and place its faith in the creativity of its membership. Jacquie Penrose, herself an award-winning playwright, has had some of her work performed by the company, and there were many other frustrated writers within the ranks who only needed an outlet to encourage them to continue writing. Yet more people, I found, had always harboured a desire to write a play but had never seen an opportunity.
When I first started talking to people about the idea that was to become Supernova 18 months ago, I was astounded and encouraged by the level of interest in such a venture. A recent upsurge in the Bench's fortunes, a string of artistically and commercially very successful productions, meant that the company was once again in a position to try something new, to further invest in their commitment to encourage new work. To take risks without being shackled by keeping one eye on the balance books. What had started life as one informal evening in which budding writers could show off their wares to an in-house audience rapidly grew, through sheer weight of enthusiasm, into a public event, with a wide variety of talent and styles. We now have a rich programme of plays, all different, all appealing to different audiences, and all written by local artists. It is very encouraging to realise that there is such a strong base of creative talent right here on our doorstep, in a city and an area that is certainly not recognised for its theatrical significance, and can often be accused of artistic apathy. I am not aware of any investment in Portsmouth's creative future at a local, regional or national level, and it is only recently that the artists within the city have started to take matters into their own hands and seize the initiative.
Supernova was never intended as a money-making exercise. Yet at the same time I hope many people have profited from it in other ways. Not only is this the first time many of the writers have had their work performed, for some it is the first time they have written a play. And again, some of the writers have tried their hand at directing for the first time. We have also seen new members join the company and find out just how exciting and chaotic theatre production is, and existing members have taken on roles that are new for them. Therefore, a lot of people have learnt new skills, have had their horizons broadened and their eyes opened by the amount that can be achieved with enthusiasm and determination. I most certainly speak for myself here, as this is the first time I have tried my hand at producing, and definitely the first time I have taken on anything of this scale and nature.
The company has also forged links with Hayling Island Amateur Dramatics Society, whose members wrote, directed and will perform 'Love Among The Dinosaurs', one of the plays you will see in Supernova. Forming such fruitful relationships with the other local theatre companies is crucial to the growth of the individual groups, and also of the local drama scene as a whole.
Supernova has also taken the opportunity to embrace modern technology. In this digital age, it is very hard to ignore the potential of new communications and production media. Much of the business conducted during this project has been done so using computers. Scripts have been distributed to cast members via e-mail, and much of the initial contact was made by the same means. It is also the first time, as far as I am aware, that the Bench has used Minidisc for a majority of the technical content of a production. This fantastic medium has opened up enormous possibilities, and much of what you will experience over the next three nights would have been impossible to achieve without it.
Ultimately, though, Supernova is a testimony to the creativity of the people involved. In addition to the acknowledgements elsewhere in this programme, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep and whole-hearted gratitude to everyone who helped make Supernova possible. The writers, the performers, the technical crew, the support and faith of the Bench Committee and membership, Havant Arts Active, the Station Theatre in Hayling and the countless people who bent over backwards and gave up their valuable time to help throughout the project. My thanks to you all.
I hope you enjoy Supernova, and please take the opportunity to chat to the cast and writers after the show.
The idea was risky, to put it mildly. Give seven local writers the chance to stage nine new one-act plays over three nights - to a paying audience. As it turned out, the first night of Bench Theatre Company's Supernova was typical of the diversity on show.
Nathan Chapman's Mere Oblivion is an intelligent muse on the character of Jacques from As You Like It. Chris Walker conveyed well the blend of confusion, anger and fear felt by a character whose existence depended on being appreciated by audiences. Mark Wakeman's riotous Broken Morning, is set the day after a drunken party. There was real poignancy in the unrequited love felt by Robert for the naked woman who had apparently crashed out upstairs. Love Among the Dinosaurs, written by Fiona Bartlett and staged by members of Hayling Island Amateur Dramatic Society, was also both funny and touching.
The News, 22nd September 2000
Six new works over two days: an exciting prospect but in the event a mixed blessing. Jacquie Penrose's two offerings proved literate and entertaining, although some symbolism in Just Outside frankly evaded me. Janet Simpson's solo performance in Conversation could have done with tightening up too, but the voice was perfect.
On Hot Summer Days demonstrated David Hill's excellent command of the mother tongue, but all the characters spoke with his voice. Otherwise, great stuff. Ingrid Corrigan's rehearsed reading of Carol Younghusband's Sisters Under the Skin proved the highlight.
Neil Pugmire's blatantly Christian Unto Us a Child is Born was funny and moving. Although the end could be seen coming a mile off, this old atheist had to wipe a tear from his eyes.
The News, 25th September 2000