Monday 16th June to Saturday 21st June 1975
Directed by Sharon Rose
"Arma virumque cano" - Of arms and the man I sing - Virgil's Aeneid.
First produced in 1894, 'Arms and the Man' might best be described as a comic opera without music. The story concerns Raina Petkoff, a young woman given to melodramatic displays of emotion who has recently seen both her husband and her would-be husband off to war. She is most disconcerted to find an enemy soldier hiding in her bedroom following a decisive battle--but fancying herself in the role of romantic heroine, she elects to help him escape. Trouble is, he comes back. George Bernard Shaw takes the title for this play from the opening life of Virgil's epic poem the "Aeneid," which begins "Of arms and the man I sing." Virgil glorified war and the heroic feats of Aeneas on the battlefield. However, Shaw's purpose in this play is to attack the romantic notion of war by presenting a more realistic depiction of war, devoid of the idea that such death and destruction speaks to nobility. Still, 'Arms and the Man' is not an anti-war drama, but rather a satirical assault on those who would glorify the horrors or war.
This play was staged under Bench Theatre's original company name of Theatre Union, at their theatre in West Street. It was actually the building in West Street, Havant where most of the Company's early plays were staged, which was called the Bench Theatre (after its prior use as a magistrates' court). The company's name was changed gradually by word of mouth and general usage between the years 1973 - 1977 when reviewers, and then members themselves, gradually stopped referring to Theatre Union and started calling the company of players 'Bench Theatre'. The new Company name of Bench Theatre was adopted in to all the promotional literature after they moved from the old theatre (which had been their home for nearly 7 years) in to the Old Town Hall building in East Street.
|Catherine Petkoff||Jill Duncan|
|Raina Petkoff||Ingrid Caddy|
|Captain Bluntschli||Peter Corrigan|
|Russian Officer||Ian Nelson|
|Major Petkoff||David Spackman|
|Major Sergius Saranoff||Peter Holding|
|Stage Manager||Jon Whalley|
|Costumes||Bermans and Nathams Ltd|
Tonight we have a play by an acclaimed master of the theatre, George Bernard Shaw. His early plays, which challenged ephemeral social ideas have lasting qualities. We hope you will enjoy tonight's play and we look forward to seeing you at Discussion Evenings and future performances.
By Choosing 'Arms and the Man', an amateur group automatically stacks that odds against itself, Shaw's lines are difficult but crucial, the characters are far from stereotypes and several individuals develop during the play. It is to their credit that Havant's Bench Theatre, never a company to baulk against a challenge, made none of these pitfalls apparent in their production which opened last night and continues until Saturday.
Naturally Bluntschli and Raina steal the show, as they should, and in Peter Corrigan and Ingrid Caddy the Bench has two fine actors of whom they should be proud. Bluntschli is instantly lovable and his show-down with Raina, when she finally realises that he sees through her 'thrilling voice' and cool manner to the human heat that beats beneath is an extremely sympathetic piece of theatre. Matched against these two, Peter Holding as Sergius, is a dashing, posturing foil who, nevertheless, lets the patent absurdity but ultimate honesty of the character shine through until the audience feels just as much for him as the two lovers. Jill Duncan as Raina's status-conscious mother as Jill Morris as Louka the maid who improves her station in life, add to the well-balanced production, as do David Spackman, the rather out of touch father, and Peter Duncan as the obsequious Nicola.
One slight discordant note is that due to the small size of the Bench - capacity 54 - the argument scenes are rather too immediate for comfort although, on the other hand, they do tend to emphasise Bluntschli's innate sanity as he soothes the antagonists. Young director Sharon Rose should be well satisfied with this excellent evening's entertainment - and some tickets are still available for this week.
The News, 17th June 1975