A Perfect Gentle Knight

Written by Jacquie Penrose

Thurs 22nd - Sat 24th September & Tues 27th September - Sat 1st October 1988

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

Tom Morrison is a good, kind, generous man, happy to sacrifice his own deepest ambitions to the needs of those around him. But crisis approaches in the shape of his middle years, his cowardice, and his daughter's dazzling fiance. When the crisis arrives, it shatters his life; will he find the courage to rebuild it?

AuthorJacquie Penrose

Jacquie Penrose (b 1950)

Jacquie Penrose is a writer and playwright and (with Bench Theatre) an amateur actor and director. She started writing in the 1980s and to date has written 14 plays, plus some novels and shorter works. At least 7 of her plays have been performed by Bench Theatre: 'Cross Your Heart', 'A Perfect Gentle Knight', 'Time and Tide' (trilogy), 'Renaissance', 'And God Created Michelangelo', 'Dreams of a Hero', 'The Party Guest'. She has also had a number of pieces performed as rehearsed readings by professional (Equity) actors in London, and she wrote and devised 'All About Us' a community play commissioned by Havant Borough Council (about the borough and its inhabitants) in 1990.

Jacquie has been awarded a substantial Arts Council Bursary for her writing, and in 2010, was awarded Best Director, and Best Original Play at the Totton round of the All-England Theatre Festival for 'The Party Guest'. Among several acting roles, she played Olga in Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' for which she received an excellent review however, she usually prefers to be more involved backstage. Since she joined Bench Theatre in 1976 she has directed countless productions, the first of which was 'Private Lives' in 1978. She remembers most fondly her work with the lighting design for the production of Ibsen's 'Ghosts' (a play she also directed) in 1991. Jacquie also spent several years as Editor of the Bench newsletter, 'Bench Press'; at least 5 years working on the Bench Executive Committee and 3 years as Committee Chair. She currently lives in Havant with her husband David.

PlayA Perfect Gentle Knight

This play was written in 1987 and highlights the dilemma of a middle-aged man threatened by his indecisiveness, his desires and his responsibilities. The plot centres around Tom and Stella Morrison, both of whom have a creative talent they love, which has taken second place to working at jobs neither them particularly enjoy. The play begins as Tom has decided to leave his job as a town-planner and concentrate on his drawing, with a view to making a living from it. Unfortunately his wife has the same intention with her writing - which up until now has just been a hobby. Matters are futher complicated when their daughter Laura announces she is getting married and when Tom's infidelity enters the equation. Love, ambition and responsibility blend in this contemporary romance by award-winning author (and Bench Theatre member) Jacquie Penrose.

The Bench Production

A Perfect Gentle Knight poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Tom MorrisonPete Woodward
Stella MorrisonSally Stidever
Laura MorrisonJustine Spencer
Emma MarchantJude Salmon
Keith HermitageJim McCarthy


Director Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Ray Abbott
Lighting Operation Graham Scott, Peter Holding
Poster Design Pete Woodward
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction David Hemsley-Brown, Vincent Adams
Front of House Peter Corrigan, Ingrid Corrigan

Director's Notes

Unlike a novel, a play cannot be produced in isolation; it has to be a co-operative exercise. Actors needs the writer's works or they have nothing to say; the writer needs the actor's voice or the play stays silent. The set builders give it shape, the lights are set, costumes assembled, posters distributed, envelopes stuffed and finally the audience arrives to complete the circuit. In this case, though, the co-operative effort went even further, back to the origins of the play itself. Early last year the Bench went on a trip to London to see 'The House of Barnarda Alba', and after the play we ended up in a pub. I got into conversation over a jar with Peter Woodward, and we began speculating on the possibility of taking a series of ideas that Pete has, scripting them, and then seeing the whole process right through to production. Even stone cold sober the idea seemed feasible, and slowly it began to take shape. In the end the task divided into Pete providing themes, ruthlessly perceptive criticism of the growing script, the lead performance, and me providing the plot, the script itself and direction of the production. Last November we gave it a rehearsed reading, after which I revised the script again. It went through the Bench's play selection process, dates were fixed, auditions held, the rest of the team assembled, and the production work began. So here we are, at the end of a long and, for me, rewarding journey from first pint to first night. The hard work of many people make a production possible, but in particular I would like to thank Pete Woodward, without whom this play would not exist at all.

Jacquie Penrose


The NewsEdward Peters

Stay-away audiences miss a good knight

Jacquie Penrose's new play opened at Havant last night and it was dreadful - not the play, or the cast, or the set which were all well up to the Bench's normally high standards and better than most comparable provincial theatres - but the lack of audience. 'A Perfect Gentle Knight' is a funny, powerful drama by an exceptional playwright whose perception of the human condition is sparklingly illustrated in her new play, yet less than half the seats in the theatre were full. The explanation must lie in too few people recognizing Ms Penrose's name as that of one of the best authors writing today.

'Gentle Knight' finds planning officer and part-time artist and adulterer Tom Morrison (Peter Woodward) - who inspired many of the play's original ideas) poised to ditch planning and take up his drawing as a living. But when his wife (Sally Stidever) announces she wants to give up her job to pursue writing full-time, Tom capitulates and is plunged into a mid-life crisis.

The situation is further complicated by their daughter (Justine Spencer), whose engagement to a garrulous "Big Banger" who works in the City electrifies her parents ("we're ecstatic" is Stella's sardonic comment). But creepy Keith (Jim McCarthy), whose devotion is to Mammon rather than the arts espoused by his proposed parents-in-law, has some revelations of his own to make which permanently disrupt the household.

The News, 23rd September 1988

Production Photographs