Thurs 19th April - Sat 21st April & Tues 24th April - Sat 28th April 2001
Directed by Mark Wakeman
Mortimer Brewster is a happy man - the woman of his dreams and his two aunts dote on him. One night he discovered that one member of his family thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, another is a gangster on the run and his sweet aunts are anything but...
The Bench deliver the hilarious comedy made famous by the film starring Cary Grant.
Arsenic and Old Lace was written in 1939 and originally entitled "Bodies in Our Cellar." It has become best known through the film adaptation starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra. The play was directed by Bretaigne Windust, and opened on 10 January 1941. On 25 September 1943, the play moved to the Hudson Theater. It closed there on 17 June 1944 having played 1,444 performances.
The play opens with the two Brewster sisters, Martha and Abby, who have lived in their father's house in Brooklyn all of their lives and now as elderly ladies share it with their nephew Teddy. The two fondly tolerate Teddy's firm belief that he is President Roosevelt, even to the extent of allowing him to dig the Panama Canal in their Cellar. Their domestic bliss is enhanced by the increasingly regular visits of Teddy's brother Mortimer as Mortimer's grows ever more fond of Elaine Harper, who lives next door with her father. Mortimer is very fond of his aunts, and fonder still of Elaine and it seems that these domestic arrangements will lead to the inevitable happy conclusion. But when Mortimer makes a disturbing discovery the path to a happy ending becomes anything but clear.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Abby Brewster||Ingrid Corrigan|
|The Rev Dr Harper||Tim Taylor|
|Teddy Brewster||Andy Rees|
|Officer Brophy||Will Chalmers|
|Officer Klein||Richard Le Moignan|
|Martha Brewster||Sue Dawes|
|Elaine Harper||Robin Hall|
|Mortimer Brewster||Neil Kendall|
|Mr Gibbs||John Blackmore|
|Dr Einstein||David Hill|
|Officer O'Hara||Paul Davies|
|Lieutenant Rooney||Mike Hickman|
|Mr Witherspoon||John Batstone|
|Assistant Director||Paul Millington|
|Stage Manager||Liam Penny|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Julia Jeram |
|Lighting Design||Damon Wakelin|
|Lighting Operator||Nathan Chapman|
|Set Construction||Simon Murray|
|Make Up||Cat Ellis|
|Publicity Design||Nathan Chapman|
|Front of House||Zoë Corrigan|
After 'The Office Party, it was "never again"; after 'The Importance of Being Earnest' it was "no more period pieces". After the period piece 'Charley's Aunt' it was "no more large sets". So now I find myself directing 'Arsenic and Old Lace' and there are a whole bunch of things about this play that I can say never again about!
As usual I haven't so much notes, as reasons why... Why choose 'Arsenic and Old Lace to perform? Why Not? The film has been a firm favourite of mine since my youth, it's very funny and challenging to do and also my friend Janet Simpson encouraged me. So here it is Janet, just for you. Also the humour of this play is a lot blacker than some I've attempted to work on which does make a difference. If you were to just recite the plot of this play to a bystander they would be forgiven for thinking that you had watched a gripping murder mystery thriller! But instead it's all wild madcap fun and farce. As a director you can't ask for a better challenge than that and hopefully it will make a treat for you, the audience to watch.
This is just a chance to say thank you to my cast and crew. To all the actors who have worked with me before (see, it doesn't get any better!), to all all those who hadn't worked with me before (you can see what the others were going on about now!) and to my wonderful backstage helpers (see, it wasn't that bad was it?).
Also than you for coming to see the play, the Bench only exists because you come and see us. If you didn't come then we would go out of business and I think that would be a shame so please give a thought to joining our backbencher scheme and ensuring that we will still be here to continue to (hopefully) entertain you.
Let's hear it for the critic - even if writer Joseph Kesselring does have a fair old swipe at the breed in his classic farce. More precisely, let's hear it for Neil Kendall, the actor who plays the theatre critic in Bench Theatre's production. Kendall is riveting from first to last as the man who discovers his 'sweet, charming, hospitable' old aunts poison lonely men with home-made elderberry wine for charity and bury them in the cellar. As the character gets deeper and deeper in an ocean of conspiracy, the actor's face becomes ruddier than the Red Sea - but his comic timing and mastery of the double-take remain supreme.
Alan Welton gives a memorably menacing performance as the crooked brother and a sing-song surgeon. Ingrid Corrigan and Sue Dawes seemed unsure of their lines last night and lacked certainty in the American accent, but they capture the aunts' essential whimsical nature well. Once their confidence grows, the production will gain the early pace it needs and show the full merit of Mark Wakeman's spirited direction. Until April 28.
The News, 20th April 2001