Monday 8th July to Saturday 13th July 1974
Produced by Tim Mahoney
A week of one-act plays, with many facets and many faces.
"...be warned: You are in for one of the best evening's entertainments this group has ever put on."
Set in Paris in the Spring of 1794, France is harassed by invading armies and torn by civil war. Traitors are quickly sent to the scaffold and Charlotte fears for her son... 'Idols' tells the story of Charlotte Moreau, a woman jealous of her daughter-in-law and who tries to send her to the guillotine. Charlotte is inconsolable when her plan back-fires and it is her beloved son who is executed. This popular play has won numerous awards.
The Sandbox was written in 1959 and the first performance was staged in 1960 in the Jazz Gallery in New York City. The play is approximately 15 minutes long and involves direct address by the actors to the audience, their acknowledgement that they are performers in a play, and the offering of cues to the musician. A man in a spotlight, clad in swimming trunks, is doing his exercises silently. A couple appears to remark, dryly, "Well, here we are; this is the beach." The woman orders a clarinetist out onto the stage and commands him to play. The couple exits, then returns carrying the woman's eighty-six-year-old mother and dumps her in a sandbox. Grandma begins to weave her history between the cool, indifferent patter of the people and the equally cool, but somehow more sympathetic, sounds from the clarinet. As Grandma covers herself with sand, it begins to dawn that the mysterious, cryptic athlete is much more than local color, and his conversation with Grandma is, in fact, prelude to his purpose. He is "after all, the Angel of Death." The play received an almost universally negative reception at its premiere, as critics attacked the confusing, absurdist plot.
La Cantatrice Chauve - translated from the French as 'The Bald Soprano' or 'The Bald Prima Donna' - is the first play written by Franco-Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco. Since 1957 it has been in permanent showing at the Theatre de la Huchette, and with a record number of interpretations, it has become one of the most performed plays in France. The Smiths are a traditional couple from London, who have invited another couple, the Martins, over for a visit. They are joined later by the Smiths' maid, Mary, and the local fire brigade captain, who is also Mary's lover. The two families engage in meaningless banter, telling stories and relating nonsensical poems. Mrs. Martin at one point converses with her husband as if he were a stranger she just met. As the fire brigade captain turns to leave, he mentions "the bald soprano" in passing, which has a very unsettling effect on the others. Mrs Smith replies that "she always wears her hair in the same style." After the fire brigade captain's exit, the play devolves into a series of complete non sequiturs, with no resemblance to normal conversation. It ends with the two couples shouting in unison "It's not over there. It's over here!"
In this play, one of two girls who live together and who are both in their late twenties, is faced with a visit from her parents. She invites an actor to tea to play the role of the fiance they think she ought to have. Unfortunately both girls sets of parents descend simultaneously and 'Trevor' finds himself playing a double role.
This play is a dramatic attempt to make a statement concerning: a) The power of artistic images, b) The growing monolithic power of international business organisations and c) The search for a greater consciousness beyond the sexual orgasm. The basis of the play's conception is the 'masque'. That and the poetic imagery owes its inspiration to the poetry of W B Yeats.
This is a one-hander originally written for actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee Monologue". It was inspired by Beckett's experience of listening to Magee reading extracts from 'Molloy' and 'From an Abandoned Work' on the BBC Third Programme in December 1957. It centres around the life of an elderly lonely man, who has kept an oral journal of his life. Each year on his birthday, he records an annual tape of the events of the previous year and listens to a previous year's recording. In the play we both listen to the recording of when he was 39 and hear him record this, his last tape.
These plays were 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.
Three plays were staged each night, with the repertoire alternating each night as follows:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday:
The Bald Prima Donna
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday:
The Radioactive Nude,
Krapp's Last Tape
|Charlotte Moreau, a widow||Tessa Daines|
|Sophie, her married sister||Joan Harrison|
|Louise, her widowed sister||Joan Jevons|
|Yvonne, her daughter in law||Cindy Prowse|
|Citizen Jourdan, a neighbour||June Jaques|
|Catherine Jourdan, her granddaughter||Virginia Randall|
|Young Man||Spokey Wheeler|
|Mrs Smith||Sharon Rose|
|Mr Smith||Peter Duncan|
|Mrs Martin||Jill Morris|
|Mrs Martin||David Anderson|
|Captain of the Fire Brigade||Peter Holding|
|The Maid||Jill Duncan|
|Jane Kempton||Ingrid Caddy|
|Sara Lawrence||Christina Purcell|
|Mrs Lawrence||Mo Burness|
|Mr Lawrence||Derek Cusdin|
|Mrs Kempton||Benita Oakley|
|Mr Kempton||David Spackman|
|Mr Hudson||Tim Lille|
|The Radioactive Nude||Christina Purcell|
|Byron Code||Ray Osborne|
|Jordan, his mistress||Mo Burness|
|Chorus||Jan Lille |
|Handmaidens||Jan Lille |
|Stage Manager||Eddie Sawyer|
|Assistant Stage Managers||John Scadding|
|Lighting||Mike Kibby |
|Sound Effects||Peter Orford|
|Tape Recording||Peter Orford|
|Posters and Tickets||David Lings|
|Front of House||Sheila Spackman|
Before going to see the series of one-act plays at Havant's Bench Theatre this week, be warned: You are in for one of the best evening's entertainments this group has ever put on. The first-night audience saw the first three of the six plays and the clear favourite was The Bald Prima Donna" by Ionesco. Witty and fast-moving, every word and action counted, with the audience completely involved with the six remarkable characters on stage. It was the first time I have seen Sharon Rose, and this girl's zest for humour with her stunning acting talent will make her a firm favourite with regular visitors to The Bench. Sharon took the part of Mrs. Smith, a terribly refined upper middle class woman. She was the perfect partner for Peter Duncan, who played her husband. David Anderson and Jill Morris played Mr and Mrs Martin, who break up the Smith's quiet evening at home. It was remarkable that in the few short weeks the cast had for rehearsing, these four managed to become so involved in their characters that their lines ricocheted from one to the other, with the zany dialogue being bandied between them like a mixed-doubles tennis match. Several people in the audience were almost crying with laughter at the antics of Jill Duncan as the maid and Peter Holding as the captain of the Fire Brigade - an over keen fireman searching for fires to put out. Visual and lighting effects were used to the full in the amazing last few minutes of the play. A pin could have been heard to drop when the lights went out in that few seconds before the applause started. The only criticism was that "The Bald Prima Donna" was the middle play.
It should have been the last, because try as they might, the cast in 'Sandbox' could not totally involve the audience whose minds were still on the previous play.
'Idols' by Phoebe Rees was the first play. This was the grisly tale of Paris under the rule of Madam Guillotine. Tessa Daines played the part of Charlotte Moreau. who plots to denounce her daughter-in-law as an enemy of the republic and is grief stricken when her plan misfires and she discovers she has sent her son to the guillotine instead. June Jaques and Virginia Randall gave gruesome performances as the two women whose minds have turned with the continuous atrocities of the revolution. These plays will be repeated on Wednesday and Friday. Three different plays will be shown tonight Thursday and Saturday.
The News, 9th July 1974
Havant's Bench Theatre side-stepped the well-trodden path of plays and chose three starkly contrasting one-act dramas. Last night saw the first showing of the second of three in a series of six one-act plays being staged at the theatre this week. First there was the story of two single girls, both in their late twenties, who share a flat in Chelsea. Jane, played by Ingrid Caddy, faces with gloom the prospect of her annual visit from her parents. They cannot understand who she is still single, and to keep them quiet Jane invents a fiancee, engaging a young actor to play the part for £5. Then comes the crunch, the parents of flat mate Sara, played by Christina Purcell, decide to arrive. She too, has invented a boyfriend, and the actor, played by David Anderson, finds himself hopping from room to room to keep both sets of parents happy. To tell what happens next would spoil a moving and unexpected end to the play, which was subtly done.
One lone actor took the stage for the second play, Krapp's Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett. Peter Corrigan, normally cast as a debonair young man, was superbly made up for his solo performance as an old man. He probably spoke no more that five sentences throughout, but his expressions, croaks and pained laugh, while he listened to the tape recordings he made as a young man, were enough.
The third play was the first performance of 'The Radio Active Nude' written and produced by Tim Lille, a Havant teacher. Ray Osborne played the central character who created a super woman, and Mo Burness played the mistress who knew his secret failings. These plays continue on Thursday and Saturday.
The News, 10th July 1974