THE BENCH: A Tale from Paradise Heights
by Joe O’Byrne.
Octagon Theatre To 30 September 2011.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Sadia Habib 29 September.
Philosophy and Pain in the Park: “That’s your Undiscovered Country, love – the Future, not Death”.
Joe O’Byrne’s play opens with the song ‘Strangers in the Night’, but we soon learn that this man and woman are not strangers at all. Innuendos and puns abound as Little Rabbit and Mr Wolf indulge in some explicit role-play.
As the play progresses, couples, acquaintances, friends, neighbours, enemies and others gather around the bench in the park, all relaying tales of life, love and loss through their conversations and conflicts. The theme of death is neatly and symbolically represented by the wreath placed on the war monument, and then later ripped to shreds by those with a lack of respect.
There’s a minimal setting; the war monument towering over the graffiti-laden park bench where these eclectic characters meet and chat, the bin with Paradise Heights labelled on it – though this grotty park is the antithesis of Paradise.
Two grumpy old men sit moaning about the youth of today, but we learn they are war heroes who have been reduced to sitting and coughing in the park with worse in store for them. A thief has aspirations to attend college and study art. The middle-aged miss their youth. Unsung heroes clean the very grotty park that the characters come to for an escape, as well as entertainment and ease. They all have something in common: living, but not living and loving, but not loving.
Sensitive and well-shaped performances from this strong ensemble. The talent demonstrated through these actors playing many roles so poignantly and perfectly is profoundly moving.
Jake: Richard Allen.
Wendy/Janice/Barry/Pearl; Stella Grundy.
Archie/Matty/Kev: Ste Myott.
Jeff/Lennie/Frank/Corny/Colin: Ian Curley.
Shirley/Gabrielle/Barbara: Phoebe Marie Jones.
Eric: David Edward Robertson.
Director/Lighting/Sound; Joe O’Byrne.
Designer – Ian Curley.