Wednesday 13th December to Saturday 16th December 1972
Produced and Directed by Tim Mahoney
"A genuine piece of twentieth-century folk art, a grotesque cry of rage and pain...", " ...a scintillating success..." for Theatre Union.
The Entertainer was first produced in London in 1957. The venue, The Royal Court Theatre, was known for its commitment to new and nontraditional drama, and the inclusion of a West End star such as Laurence Olivier in the cast caused much interest. Initial reviews were mixed - "It is no great play but no bad evening either." However, by the time of the 1974 revival more positive acclaim was going its way - "brilliant equation between Britain and a dilapidated old music hall," which is what the author was striving for when he wrote the play.
Bench Theatre's original name was 'Theatre Union' and was later changed to reflect the name of the theatre in West Street where most of their early productions were staged. This play was performed under the original Theatre Union name and staged at The Bench Theatre building in West Street. It was the company's sixth major production at that venue which was their home for nearly 7 years.
|Billy Rice||David Spackman|
|Jean Rice||Jo Cook|
|Archie Rice||Ray Osborne|
|Phoebe Rice||Eve Moore|
|Frank Rice||Peter Corrigan|
|William (Brother Bill) Rice||Derek Cusdin|
|Graham Dodd||Clive Wilson|
|Stage Manager||Maureen Smith|
|Musical Effects||Peter Orford|
|Art work||David Lings|
John Raymond, writing in the New Statesman in 1957, described the play as "...a genuine piece of twentieth-century folk art, a grotesque cry of rage and pain at the bad hand history is dealing out to what was once the largest empire in the world." John Osborne himself said, "The music hall is dying and with it a significant part of England... in writing this play I have not used some of the techniques of the music hall in order to exploit an effective trick, but because they are relevant to the story and setting. The music hall's contact is immediate, vital and direct."
I think it is true to say that the cast have found this a challenging play, we think that we get to the heart of the matter, at times, anyway.
The subtleties of John Osborne's period piece of the 'Fifties, 'The Entertainer', could, with unsympathetic handling, so easily fail to come through. Pathetic posturing of the faded music hall comic, Archie Rice and his fate-tossed family, played against a background of the imperial death throes of the Suez debacle have to be skilfully knitted together to carry conviction. It was brave of the Bench Theatre, Havant to tackle the play on their minuscule pad. But once again, excellent teamwork by cast, stage management and lighting rewarded this adventurous little company with a scintillating success that had an enthusiastic first-night reception.
Ray Osborne as the fly-blown Archie, and Eve Moore as his long-suffering wife, squeezed every ounce of fun and pathos from the dialogue, keeping up a brisk pace and holding the audience spell-bound. Jo Cook played the daughter, Jean, with restraint and a wealth of expression which was a tour de force, and Grandfather Billy's endearing dry humour as interpreted by David Spackman made a splendid foil for the rantings of the younger characters. There were some nice touches, too, from Peter Corrigan as the son, Frank. Minor parts were competently played by Derek Cusdin and Clive Wilson, with Tony Starr as pianist.
Regular patrons of this talented company never cease to be surprised at the ingenuity and enthusiasm with which Tim Mahoney and his back-stage team adapt their sets and seating arrangements to cope with the demands of such a varied offering of plays. They are to be congratulated on once again achieving the seemingly impossible in the limited space available. Few amateur companies attain such consistently high standards.
The News, 14th December 1972