This new play by acclaimed Scottish playwright Keir McAllister centres around two men who are brought into conflict over a bench. Joe, a mentally-conflicted office worker, tries to find five minutes of peace by sitting alone on the bench. However, this disrupts the flowers laid by elderly Sandy, who sees the spot as a memorial which he tries to preserve. The initial arguments between the two develops into a conflict that ends up changing the ways in which both men see each other.
McAllister, who also appears as Joe, makes the initial exchanges between Joe and Sandy mild enough, then gradually escalates the comedic tension between the two characters as their battle over the bench continues. One highlight within this heated exchange is a “memorial service” held by Sandy, commemorating the burnt-down bench to the strains of Elton John’s Candle In The Wind. However, he also includes a conversation between Joe and Sandy that reveals each man’s individual reason for coming to the bench every day that both develops the characters without sacrificing the humorous tone for an overly sentimental conclusion.
Both McAllister and Paul Sneddon as Sandy convincingly portray their individual characters’ distinct ways of winding the other up. Sneddon provides Sandy with an irascible, hectoring nature that makes him a believable irritant for Joe, who McAllister depicts as attacking Sandy’s eccentric demands and his sexual orientation. Nevertheless, both actors adeptly adjust their performances when their revelations to each other call for them to become more serious. Sneddon, in particular, subtly portrays Sandy’s regret regarding the circumstances that led to his fixation on the bench.
The Bench is an entertaining two-hander that benefits not only from its skilful writing, but also from the comedic and dramatic capabilities of its performers. All of these elements come together to make this production worthwhile.