Supernova: A Festival of New One Act Plays

Written by Various Authors

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.

The Authors

Nathan Chapman

Nathan is a writer and director for various local theatre companies, and he also lectures in Drama part-time at Chichester College of Arts, Science and Technology. He has written in a number of different styles, including screenplays, children's musicals, murder mystery evenings and poetry, but his first love is writing plays. His first play, 'The Life Of Reilly' (1997), is expected to tour the South professionally early next year, for which he will take the directing role. The majority of his acting outings with the Bench have involved him playing highly mannered Victorian gentlemen, proof if it is needed, that art need not imitate life. Nathan would like people to know that he is generally not as depressing and serious as his 'Supernova' play would suggest.

Mark Wakeman

Mark has been a member of the Bench on and off for the last decade. He has acted in such shows as 'The Odd Couple', 'The Caretaker' and most recently 'Translations' and also directed 'The Office Party', 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and 'Charley's Aunt'. He leapt at the chance to work on Supernova as it gave him a chance to add "writer" to his list of credits. Mark has been fiddling with scripts and novels for a number of years and is glad to be given the chance to show off some of his work. His regular comedy writing partner is Mr Neil Kendall, himself a former Bench member. Mark is also a founder member, writer and performer for 'The Vicar's Daughters' comedy team. He has yet to be heard to say the word "no" when faced with someone saying "Can I buy you a drink?" If you don't believe us, test the theory. Mark will be waiting in the bar afterwards.

Fiona Bartlett

Fiona started her connections with the theatre at the Old Vic as a costumier, making beautiful costumes for the men's wardrobe. From there she worked for various theatrical and television venues as a costumier. This contact however, started an affair with the theatre in all its aspects, the most recent being writing. 'Dinosaurs' is only her fourth play, and is a reflection of attitudes. Most of her writing is in the lighter vein, as she likes making people laugh, especially at themselves. Working backstage in the wardrobe allows you to observe behaviour closely, which she enjoys doing (without wishing to appear a voyeur!). She has also worked as a teacher for many years and her current job brings together all her skills, in a hands on education department of the County Museum service, devoted to Primary school children. Fiona has been a member of HIADS for ten years, participating in both front and backstage capacity. This year as Lady Windermere in 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime', then she made the costumes for 'A Midsummer Nights Dream', and followed this with directing 'A Murder is Announced' in early August.

Jacquie Penrose

A long-standing company member, Jacquie has written many plays that have been performed by the Bench, most recently 'Renaissance' and 'Dreams of a Hero'. A life-long lover of theatre, she has acted on stage with Bench Theatre occasionally, but much prefers to be behind the scenes. She has produced and directed many plays with the company, including 'Private Lives', 'Twelfth Night', 'Othello', 'Ghosts', 'Dead Funny' and 'Habeas Corpus' and many of her own works. As a writer, she has been awarded an Arts Council Bursary, and was commissioned by the Borough to write the Havant Community Play in 1990. She is currently also a drama lecturer at Chichester College.

David Hill

David Hill joined Bench Theatre when he took early retirement in 1996. He has since played a number of supporting roles, mainly of a comic nature. On Hot Summer Days is his first play.

Carol Younghusband

Carol observes that, if play-writing were her main source of income, she'd be living in a cardboard box. That said, she's notched up significant success in the last few years. A published playwright (her published play is called 'Only a Game'), Carol has been commissioned for theatre and television comedy and is currently under commission to write a new television sketch show. (This was to be sketches for the Emmy-award-winning 'Smack The Pony' - Ed) Carol has received television and radio awards for her work and her whimsical humour adapts well to both children and adult audiences.

Neil Pugmire

Neil has been writing sketches for Christian groups for the past 12 years, but this is only his second full-length offering to be performed. Originally conceived in 1995 at a workshop when he was told to "write about what he knew about", the vicar's son started writing about the tensions in a clergy family. His futuristic children's play 'The Adventures of The J Team' was performed in Portsmouth by Christian group Top Cat Theatre Company in 1998. It has also been performed in serial form at more than 20 schools around the Portsmouth area since 1994. Top Cat is also staging the premiere of his latest offering 'Unforgivable Sin' in Spring 2001. By an entire coincidence, it also features a vicar's family! During the rehearsal period for Supernova, Neil has found a publisher for one of his plays and is now pursuing a career in scriptwriting.

PlaysThe New One Act Plays

Mere Oblivion Written and Directed by Nathan Chapman


Jacques Chris Walker
Voice Alan Welton
Robin Hall

Broken Morning Written and Directed by Mark Wakeman


Robert Mark Wakeman
Jane Robin Hall
Derek Paul Davies
Dan Nathan Chapman

Love Among the Dinosaurs Written and Directed by Fiona Bartlett


Michael Alan Hoad
Sarah Sue Wilson
Mrs Waring Janet Turley
Karen Wendy Evans
Councillor Blackash Tim Taylor

Just Outside Written and Directed by Jacquie Penrose


Man Jim Flanaghan
Woman Sam Emery

Conversation Written and Directed by Jacquie Penrose


WomanJanet Simpson

On Hot Summer Days Written and Directed by David Hill


Alex David Hill
Jill Sue Dawes
David Paul Davies
Carol Robin Hall
Bella Carol Fisher

Sisters Under the Skin Written by Carol Younghusband


Chrissie Ingrid Corrigan

Unto Us A Child Is Born Written and Directed by Neil Pugmire


Donald David Penrose
Marjorie Ingrid Corrigan
Sarah Emma Powell
Gary Paul Davies
Tony Neil Pugmire
Gavin Ollie Cowdrey
Abi Josie Cox
Darren Chris Sutton
Mrs Arkwright Janet Simpson

Helpline Written and Directed by Mark Wakeman


Gandalf Mark Wakeman
Nicole Robin Hall
Andrew Claire Kendall
Dwayne Paul Millington
Killer 1 Alan Welton
Killer 2 Paul Davies

The Bench Production

Supernova poster image

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:

Mere Oblivion
Broken Morning
Love Among the Dinosaurs

Just Outside
On Hot Summer Days
Sisters Under the Skin

Unto Us a Child is Born


Producer Nathan Chapman
Stage Manager Zoë Corrigan
Assistant Stage Managers Glenda Penny
Carole Fisher
Sound Operator Simon Walton
Lighting Operator Peter Corrigan
Technical Assistance Mike Francis
Damon Wakelin
Sam Emery
Digital Sound Recording and Editing Martin Stevens
Publicity Nathan Chapman
Paul Davies
The voice of supernova Glenda Penny
Front of House Sam Emery

Producer's Notes

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.

Nathan Chapman


The NewsNeil Pugmire

Diverse Offering

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

The NewsJames George

A Mixed blessing

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