Alone on the Bench

Written by Charles Dickens and Arnold Wesker

Thursday 15th October to Friday 16th October 1997

Directed by Helena Zefferett and John Scadding

As part of an occasional fringe season, Bench Theatre presents two solo performances.
David Copperfield shows Dickens at his most humorous and moving, being partly autobiographical. "Of all my books" wrote Dickens, "I like this one the best".
Annie Wobbler is a bag lady from the 1930s East End. A funny yet poignant portrayal, this scene from an Arnold Wesker play shows why Wesker is among theatre's best writers for women.

AuthorsCharles Dickens and Arnold Wesker

Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870)

Born in Portsmouth, Dickens was first a journalist in London, then a periodical novelist. He is one of the most famous novelists in the English language and many of his stories concern the widespread poverty and social injustice prevalent in Victorian Britain.

Sir Arnold Wesker (b 1932)

Arnold Wesker is a prolific playwright known for his contributions to kitchen sink drama who was knighted in 2006. He is the author of 42 plays, 4 volumes of short stories, 2 volumes of essays and other assorted writings. His plays have been translated into 17 languages and performed worldwide and his best-known works include 'Chicken Soup with Barley', 'Roots', 'Chips with Everything' and 'The Friends'.

PresentationAlone on a Bench

David Copperfield

This is an extract from the novel adapted by Dickens for his own public reading. Dickens was most famous for two things - for writing huge novels and for performing short excerpts from them. He had a passion for amateur theatricals. Standing alone on a stage at his specially constructed desk he would grasp a book and pretending to read what he had long since committed to memory he would bring to life to huge audiences incidents and characters from his most popular stories.

His own favourite novel and his own favourite reading was David Copperfield, published in 1849-50, is (in some of its details) Dickens' veiled autobiography. Dickens captured the popular imagination as no other novelist had done and, despite some murmurs against his sentimentality and sensationalism and his inability to portray women other than as innocents or grotesques, he was also heal in high critical esteem.

Annie Wobbler

This is a scene from Wesker's play; 'Annie Wobbler' which is both humorous and sad. Annie is a part-time bag lady and part-time cleaner. She "does" for an immigrant Jewish family who live in a crumbling East-End tenement. The time is Spring 1939. As she talks to Madam and God we discover something of her life. The happy and bleak times are recalled, often with difficulty, from the confined veils of her memory.

Annie Wobbler is from a volume of 'One Woman Plays' by Arnold Wesker. Wesker himself is most insistent that these are plays rather than monologues. "I also persist in using the word "play" and not "monologue" to describe them. I understand a monologue to be one person merely speaking and not engaged in an action". Indeed Annie Wobbler is always engaged in action and talks to Madam and God off-stage.

The Bench Production

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

David Copperfield

The NarratorJohn Scadding

Annie Wobbler

Annie WobblerDaphne Mossop
Director Helena Zefferett


Stage Manager Benita Oakley
Lighting and Sound Tim Taylor

Programme Notes

David Copperfield

This reading was considered by himself and those around him to be the most exhausting for him (if The Murder of Nancy finally finished him off, the storm in Copperfield certainly contributed).

The performer tonight is John Scadding who has almost accidentally cornered the market in Dickens performances at the Bench having previously presented Little Dombey and Christmas Carol. Tonight, with some measure of relief, he completes his self-imposed trilogy, John Scadding has been an actor and director with the Bench since the "early years".

Annie Wobbler

The play demonstrated Arnold Wesker's ability to write gritty but nevertheless sympathetic parts for women. Bernard Levin wrote of Wesker, "The passion of Mr Wesker is matched by the living fire in his writing... its quality is undiminished by the passing years".

This is Daphne Mossop's second stage appearance at The Bench. She first appeared in 'Top Girls' in 1996 and performs this scene from the Arnold Wesker play