There's been an awful lot of weather about lately. Bob and Doris have noticed but they aren't afraid: that nice chap from Future Assured has offered to protect their property and keep them safe if the worst happens. But then the worst does happen and keeps on happening. A comic play about how to cope with the climate accompanied by new writing by Pens of the Earth.
A full video of this show can be found on YouTube at Bob and Doris Are Not Afraid by Jacquie Penrose, April 2023.
A full video of the prose and poetry recitals from 'Pens of the Earth' can also be found on YouTube at Pens of the Earth, performing before 'Bob and Doris, Apr 2023.
This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Newlea Brand||Sarah Ash|
|Rupert and Percussion||Steven Foden|
|Angela and ensemble||Bernadette Lomas|
|Dave and ensemble||Francisco Booth|
|Carly and ensemble||Katie Watson|
|Norm and ensemble||Christine Allison|
|Pam and ensemble||Janice Halsey|
|Jane Bodd and ensemble||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Ensemble and Narration||Bethany Howard|
|Ensemble and Narration||Andreea-Luciana Bosog|
|Stage Manager||Roger Niven|
|Lighting Design||Phil Hanley|
|Lighting Operation||Jeff Bone|
|Flyer Design||Dan Finch|
|Set Construction||Julie Burt-Wood|
|Props Construction||John Ash and Members of the Company|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
It was twelve years ago that Havant Literary Festival and Havant Transition Network first presented Jacquie Penrose's Bob and Doris Are Not Afraid in a production by SOOP. We received lottery funding, and SOOP expanded the main cast of its production with a lovely company of community-cast players as the ensemble. It might be hoped that the play's themes of climate crisis and the often unthinking ways in which we try to plan for it would no longer be relevant but, when Jacquie suggested to me that it might be time for a revival, the themes were clearly just as relevant and ever more pressing.
Stylistically, this is a playful play, and the spirit of recycling and making-do underpins the production as you will see in our jumble-sale aesthetic with every possible expense spared. We have brought things in from home or made them with bits we already had in the cupboard: after all, 'theatre is such stuff as sheds are made of' as Shakespeare notably omitted to say.
A further theme has greatly influenced the creation of the production: that of working together. We know the human race works best when it shares goals and welcomes diverse minds to the discussion, and the work on this production has been one of collaborative devising as we established how we were going to create the settings and actions. I am indebted to an extremely creative and flexible cast who have been happy to suggest and try out all sorts of things along the way.
Given that the play is relatively short, we wondered if we could find some environmentally minded collaborators to join us for the evening, and I am very grateful to Pens of the Earth for agreeing to put together a spoken-word programme of readings and talks as our first act. The programme will change slightly each night, and it's wonderful to have such an eclectic mix of poets, prose writers and activists to open up the topic of the environment for us throughout the run.
Thank you for coming along to see us tonight – your support means a lot. Theatre is just one side of a discussion, and it needs an audience to provide the other half and take the whole thing away with them. We hope you enjoy the evening and, like Bob and Doris, do not leave the theatre afraid, but discussing solutions.
Bench are back at The Spring over the next two weeks with another self-penned piece, Bob And Doris Are Not Afraid, Jacquie Penrose's clever and humorous view of global warming and its ultimate effects.
Using the clever device of an insurance company's too-good-to-be-true household cover, taken out by our eponymous heroes, Penrose explores the effects the various results of global warming may – and probably will – have on the people of the world.
Director Vin Adams has rightly adopted a physical-theatre approach to the piece. The cast not only play the characters they, more often than not, play the furniture, the weather, the bunny wallpaper and – on one occasion - a helicopter. From time to time the hard-working cast is not quite precise enough, not quite slick enough to be completely effective – but their hearts are in it and the opening-night audience clearly loved it.
Performance-wise, Sarah Ash as insurance-company employee Nuala Brand leads the field. Her over-the-top performance is beautifully judged and, despite that over-the-topness, I'd bet that most of us have worked with a Nuala over the years. Ash manages a very clever balancing-act of unreality and truth.
David Penrose and Janette Evans as Bob and Doris work beautifully. Penrose is the master of the bemused stare; Evans is wonderfully naive. Both are a joy and the pained anticipation of each disaster that strikes them makes you love them all the more. If the ending has a Monty Python over-the-topness that requires a complete suspension of belief – what the hell? Suspend that belief; go for the ride. It's a joy.
The first half of the evening, before the play began, involved a series of readings, prose and poetry, by Pens Of The Earth, a group of local writers who are as concerned as any of us about the ruin of the planet. These pieces are well-written, thoughtful, funny and insightful.