Tuesday 16th September to Saturday 20th September 2008
Directed by John Batstone
It is perhaps surprising that in our forty years of presenting a range of successful plays we have yet to offer a David Storey. 'Home' was first performed in 1970 to great acclaim and with a cast including Gielgud and Richardson. Nearly forty years on, it still holds up very well with its mix of bizarre comedy and presentation of dysfunctional loves. Nothing is quite what it seems, or what the characters would like it to be. Problems start from the title itself. "No place like..."
Home features the interactions of a number of eccentric characters, including the seemingly benign Harry, highly opinionated Jack, cynical Marjorie, and flirtatious Kathleen. Gradually it is revealed that these people are living in an asylum, but the audience is also made to realise how similar their preoccupations and pretensions are to those of us living 'normal' lives.
The play premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1970, then transferred to Broadway where it ran for more than a hundred performances and was nominated for a Tony award. The opening night cast included John Gielgud as Harry, Dandy Nichols as Marjorie, Ralph Richardson as Jack and Mona Washbourne as Kathleen. Storey adapted his play for television, and it was broadcast in 1972 with the same cast under the 'Play for Today' series.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. The production was nominated for 'Best Amateur Drama' and David Penrose was nominated as 'Best Amateur Actor' for his portrayal of Harry, in The News 'Guide' Awards 2009.
|Stage Manager||Sian Green|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Jaspar Utley |
|Lighting Design||Jacquie Penrose|
|Lighting Operation||Jacquie Penrose|
|Lighting Programmer||Alice Corrigan|
|Sound Operation||Robin Hall|
|Set Design||Jacquie Penrose|
|Set Construction||Simon Growcott |
|Flier Design||Pete Woodward|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
|Photography||Dan Finch |
|Front of House Manager||Gina Farmer|
Sometimes thought of as a survivor from the Sixties where he enjoyed success as playwright and novelist, David Storey is still going strong. His staying power is indicated by his play 'In Celebration' which enjoyed a good West End run last year. Perhaps this staying power is a testimony to his unlikely background as professional Rugby League player and art student.
It is particularly appropriate that The Bench, who have never presented a David Storey play, should herald their own 40th year with a production of 'Home', a play which first appeared nearly 40 years ago in 1970.
David Storey explores the naturalistic world, life as it is (or ought to be) with faithful attention to detail. The suggestions of what Jack has been up to has affinities with the reputation-threatening activities in a cinema of the Major in Terence Rattigan's play, 'Separate Tables', the foibles of one echoing the peccadilloes of the other. But whereas Rattigan takes the situation as an opportunity to expose the hypocritical hand-raising of a smug society, Storey sadly and comically explores the evasions, the euphemisms with which his character attempts to maintain the fragile edifice of a respectable British middle-class life. David Storey is a master of the 'tweak' wherein a situation or conversation of farcical proportions suddenly exposes the awful hollowness of a life led in deception. So relationships in his plays which are part squabbles, part assertions of superiority are also demonstrations of mutual dependency. As the dialogue takes its twists and turns, entertaining us with non-sequiturs, Samuel Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon, Hamm and Clov, are never far away.
In his plays of dysfunction what we see, or expect to see, is not what we get. In 'In Celebration' the happy homecoming of the family sons isn't quite like that. In 'The Contractor' a wedding marquee is being erected at first and in the final act it is dismantled. What happened to the wedding which is what it's all supposed to be about? That happens during the interval. And in tonight's play much springs from the very title. 'Home', yes. 'No place like', 'Sweet' - maybe, but all depends on what preposition you stick in front of it: "at" cosy, "in (a)" and at once one is institutionalised.
Harry and Jack live in their fantasy worlds. Harry's head is almost literally in the clouds, their edges and their movements. Where Harry's feet are on the floor of some romantic ballroom (perhaps as the dancer he never was but might have been), Jack is surrounded in his imagination of a richly sustaining network of relations, cousins and uncles, usually defined by the word "once".
These whimsical, infinitely flexible figures may offer a notional protection in a world where people fall off cliffs and jump off trains. But even that may be fantasy.
Kathleen and Marjorie have little refuge in class assumptions. Their entrapment is as real as the men folk's, in a world where romantic fantasies are thwarted by "my bleedin' feet" and notions of control are awash in the incontinence of the P.O. 'Persistent Offender'.
Is Alfred the all-seeing "wise fool" - or simply brain dead? What, if anything, lies behind that unblinking stare? We hope you will be puzzled and entertained by this and other things you see this evening.
One of the joys of Bench Theatre is their willingness to tackle pieces of theatre like David Storey's Home. Because it's not - let's be frank - an audience grabber. The plot is non-existent and the piece relies heavily, like Chekhov, on the relationships of the four main protagonists - Harry, Jack, Kathleen and Marjorie, all patients in a mental institution to carry it along.
The near-impossible dialogue sits nicely in the mouths of David Penrose and Pete Woodward (as Harry and Jack respectively) with Penrose, in particular giving a fastidious precise performance the nit-picky placing of his hat on a table before a word has been spoken being a perfect example. Penrose and Woodward give off a sense of other-worldliness, or not being quite with us for the moment, that neatly personifies mental illness without dipping into caricature.
While Storey gives his male characters dialogue with a sense of reality to it, the women he creates are almost pantomime grotesques, Sally Hartley and Sue Dawes as Marjorie and Kathleen are not helped by their dialogue being in stark contrast to the naturalism of the men. That's not to say these two actors don't rise admirably to the challenge, however and both feisty performances glean their fair share of laughs.
The News, 17th September 2008
Bench Theatre Company have been performing for almost 40 years and appropriately John Batstone chose to direct a play written almost 40 years ago - 'Home' by the award winning novelist/playwright/professional Rugby League player David Storey (the initial performance starring Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson). This experienced resident theatre company with over 200 productions to their name ranging from classics to challenging contemporary works, have a loyal and supportive following at this great little theatre.
The play is set in the grounds of an asylum and offers a snapshot of life over the period of one day, showing the solitude and dislocation of madness and the inability to communicate. Two elderly eccentric gentlemen reminisce and their long monologues/dialogues are at times poignant and emotional but as well comic and amusing. Their sentences cut short as their memories fail and exaggerate. Henry (played by David Penrose) is a benign chap and more of a dreamer, as against Jack who was a sharper dresser, more opinionated and imagined he had a vast array of aunts, cousins etc.! He was ably portrayed by Peter Woodward who gave a great performance throughout. The dynamics of their situation altered with the arrival of two females. The flirty Kathleen (Sue Dawes) constantly suffering in her high heels and the very amusing but cynical Marjorie. Sue Hartley giving a wonderful rendition of this character.
Despite being institutionalised all four individuals are in the same situation yet their misconceptions and deceptions are relevant to the same conditions today and in society as a whole. The final inmate to be introduced was Alfred (Dan Finch) an alarming presence with his silence and aggressive vacant stare, given to carrying furniture on his head or off the stage! This was a great performance by such a capable company and their next production 'Wind in the Willows' will be keenly anticipated in December.
remotegoat, 20th September 2008