A Bench At The Edge presented by Off the Cliff Theatre
What is it?
A revival of American playwright Luigi Jannuzzi's 1981 play of the same name.
What is it all about?
Two people find themselves at the edge, looking down into the abyss. Number One (Meg Lake) spends her days watching from her bench. Talking to those who are looking for answers, watching those who are not, and hiding from the 'bullets', running full pelt, throwing themselves over the edge without a second thought.
Number Two (Harriet Main) finds herself on the edge, grappling with the decision of whether or not to jump, and is startled by Number One's presence.
The pair explore their reasons for finding themselves at this place, and the dark line of thought that comes with being there. They find that in their vast differences, there are similarities, and that there is comfort in being honest with your situation.
How did it make me feel?
I loved the concept before going into the show, an absurd look at where suicidal thoughts take people, and a metaphorical journey about taking chances, and what lies in the unknown. However, sadly, the writing seems to drag, over-explaining and drawing out moments that needn't have so much attention on them. The dialogue is clunky and expositional, and feeds into cliches about women that are tired. Particularity with the character of Number Two, her background feels so incredibly predictable that there is a moment where it genuinely feels as if the audience are being led down a certain path that would bring a surprising payoff. However, this is not the case. Number Two is painted as weak and pathetic at the hands of her husband and his cheating ways, and hates her life as a computer programmer. Number One, slightly more engaging due to Lake's excellent timing and overall performance, also predictably proves to be similar, and the fact that the script has been written from a male perspective is glaringly obvious.
The arc of he story is also minimal, and even though the setting is supposed to be high intensity, the stakes feel incredibly low throughout, with this story taking an extremely long time to get where it is going.
Samuel Creer, who accompanies the piece with his cello, adds a lovely musical element, bringing the stakes up slightly, and adding weight to words that cannot be spoken.
Off The Cliff Theatre and director Kasia Różycki do their best with this piece, but A Bench At the Edge feels dated and unnecessary, taking a two-dimensional view of mental illness and suicide that feels ultimately lazy and under-researched.
A Bench At The Edge is playing at Tristan Bates Theatre until the 30th November 2019.
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