Wednesday 17th September to Saturday 20th September 2014
Directed by Pete Woodward
Five men gather in a restaurant late on a Sunday night before embarking on an all-night poker game. The ritual of this weekly event is disturbed by the arrival of an outsider determined to collect an overdue debt.
A play about gambling - compulsive gambling - and how those held in its vice-like grip react to, and deal with, the demons that drive them.
Both comic and savage and written with a pitch-perfect ear for the language of the desperate and the forever hopeful.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Co-Producers||Sally Hartley, Claire Lyne|
|Stage Manager||Robin Hall|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Verity Butler|
|Lighting Design||Thomas Hall|
|Lighting and Sound Operation||Paul Millington|
|Set Design||Pete Woodward, David Penrose|
|Production Photography||Julie Wood|
|Poster and Flier Design||Pete Woodward|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
Whilst enjoying a small glass of red wine I have found, in the past, that talking with other Bench members about plays in general and how it would be fun to put them on, sometimes results in me directing one.
Some time ago Peter Corrigan and then more recently David Penrose (both excellent judges of stuff we do here in Havant) spoke warmly of a play I knew very little about - Dealer's Choice.
So I read it, immediately loved it, and eventually the company agreed to let me direct it. I must say, I am an extremely infrequent gambler, and even then a timid one; unlike Mugsy, Sweeney, Frankie, Carl, Stephen and Ash.
To me, these men, locked into an addiction most of us are unfamiliar with, are fantastic subjects for drama. I find this, coupled with a wonderful script by Patrick Marber, an exciting project, and I feel especially pleased to be part of the team that brings this show to you. I hope you enjoy it.
Such is the case with The Bench's production of Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice at The Spring this week.
Not for the faint-hearted, this tragi-comedy plumbs the depths of the English language, pulling no punches linguistically or emotionally, and is, by turns, both hilarious and disturbing.
In a tightly-ensemble piece director Pete Woodward has a sublime cast, central to which is the wonderful David Penrose as Stephen, restaurateur and father - and apparently failing at both. The master of the underplayed throwaway, much of the warmth of the piece belongs to Penrose.
Chris Vanstone as his wastrel son, Carl, is a find, too and he is certainly one of the strongest young actors in The Bench's company.
The relationship between Stephen's three employees Dan Finch (Frankie), Mark Wakeman (Sweeny) and Jeff Bone (Mugsy) is well-drawn and well-played and the quick-fire dialogue is beautifully handled by the three of them, and as the dark interloper, Ash, Alan Ward is a threatening presence.
And every cast member deserves plaudits for the incredibly complex playing of the poker-game in the second act.
Catch it if you can.
The News, October 2014