When searching for the ‘right piece of theatre’, we knew it had to meet specific criteria, hitting a lot of buttons on the way. First of all, the play must be well written. No compromise on that. If you are going to expend a good few weeks of creative time and energy on any production, it has to be worthwhile. This worthwhile bench-mark also includes, fun to do, distinctive, challenging (intellectually and/or physically) and all round entertaining! Life changing or enhancing, comes hard on their heels. If any one of these ingredients are missing from the recipe, the mixture just isn’t satisfying. The proof of the pudding is in the eating after all, and, in this case, we always wish the audience to be left hungry for just one more slice.
A Bench at the Edge by Luigi Jannuzzi has all of these elements beautifully combined. After reading the promising synopsis and then the full play, purchased from @SamuelFrenchNYC, we - Harri, Kasia Różycki (the Director) and I - were not disappointed.
It comes with the best recommendations:
Winner! Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival
Winner! 2001 Best Play: British One-Act Finals
Winner! 2007 Best Play at All Ireland Finals at Rossmore, Ireland.
Winner! 2012 Whitemoss Trophy (UK)
Winner! 2016 Scottish Community Drama Association Festival Finals
Reviewers have said:
'Jannuzzi's comedy is refreshingly offbeat.' Daily News
'Pretention is avoided with ingenious narrative turns and electric repartee.' Los Angeles Times
'Dialogue riddled with humour and empathy for the human condition and the decisions of life and death; a fine piece of writing.' Dramalogue
I haven’t had the opportunity to work on a 2-hander before and I am relishing the depths such a piece allows us to reach. The basic plot: two unnamed strangers are thrown together by the quirk of fate and they talk. So simple. Through their sparring and discussions, through their collision of ideas at a critical point in both their lives, through their dilemmas, they come to understand each other and we, in turn, are challenged to re-evaluate our lives and appreciate what we have, warts and all. So simple, so enthralling.
As an actor, to explore and develop a character, their ‘whys and wherefores’, find their eccentricities, play with concepts and levels, figuratively and literally, is very fulfilling. The pleasure of delving and uncovering ‘another’ in rehearsal can be engrossing, making time stand still and, for a few hours each week, we are transported to a unique world. If that sounds indulgent, maybe it is, but this is our necessary luxury. This is ‘play’!
BENCH AT THE EDGE
by Luigi Jannuzzi
26th - 30th November 2019
(Tues - Sat at 6.15pm, matinée on Sat 30th at 1pm)
Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, London WC2H 9NP
Tickets: £12 / £10
Online booking: https://www.actorscentre.co.uk/theatre/a-bench-at-the-edge
Box office: 020 3841 6611