Old friends reminiscing, a couple embarking on a raunchy rendezvous, criminals hatching a sinister plan – The Bench played host to all in Joe O’Byrne’s comedy of love, life and loss.

In The Bench, the first installment in a series of interconnected plays, audiences are introduced to Paradise Heights, a run down estate in an unnamed town. Like most towns, the park provides a place for individuals from all walks of life to intersect and it is here that the play finds its backdrop. From one vantage point in particular – a bench next to a war memorial – audiences are introduced to a number of local residents in a series of vignettes.

The cast of six play a number of characters throughout the production. On occasion members of the ensemble deliver quick changes, leaving the stage as one character and appearing from behind the curtain moments later transformed. The level of acting is impressive for a production of this size, performed in the Grand Theatre Studio, and Ross Thompson’s range in particular stands out.

With three further tales on the way to the Grand it certainly looks like there’s more depth to explore in Paradise Heights.

The ability of the actors is paramount in this piece. With a simple set of only a few key props, what is seen on stage commands attention. Unfortunately, when the plays namesake bench is replaced with a black sofa, the environment becomes a lot less convincing and dramatically impacts the ability to suspend belief.

The short, snapshot style scenes that form the structure of the play may leave some viewers unsatisfied – there are no deep interrogations of background to be found here. Despite this there are emotional peaks and troughs to be had throughout and O’Byrne’s writing provides enough detail to spark intrigue into the lives of those who live on the estate. With three further tales on the way to the Grand it certainly looks like there’s more depth to explore in Paradise Heights.

The story continues at Diane’s Deli, where today’s special is… revenge.

Tales from Paradise Heights are being performed at the Grand Theatre over coming months. Diane’s Deli 4th-6th April; Strawberry Jack 31st May-2nd June; I’m Frank Morgan, Rewired 25th-27th July. Read playwright Joe O’Byrne’s blog for Blackpool Social Club here.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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