A Seat In The Park
Wargrave Theatre Workshop
What a treat it was to take my own seat to the park (Mill Green) and watch A Seat in the Park by Cherry Vooght last Saturday.
The sun was shining and 1920s music was floating through the air as the superbly organised Covid-secure front of house staff showed us to our clearly marked-out, socially-distanced area.
It was the first time in six months that I’d been in a theatrical environment and I don’t mind admitting that I shed a few tears when the performance started.
Tears of sadness at what has happened to the performing arts industry in recent months but mostly tears of joy knowing that somehow theatre always finds a way.
Vooght’s play is a series of short scenes, set on the same park bench outside a public lavatory, that focus on the friendships and families of real lived-in characters, each of whom is missing something or someone important from their lives.
The script calls for strong female performers and the cast did not let us down. Kudos to directors Ann Roberts and Clive Dow for allowing the actors licence to give believable and beautifully understated performances. We were totally drawn into each little world. We cared about each character.
It was wonderful to watch Emmajane Hughes’ gloriously ditzy ‘Woman’ win over the world- weary ex-celebrity, aptly played by Graham Wheal. A great reminder that sometimes strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.
Bringing both humour and hard-hitting pathos, Grace Tye’s and Jenny Manning’s bickering bench buddies were superb. This scene was a highlight for me, especially the heart-warming moment when, although hen-pecked and belittled by her, Jenny’s “Second Lady” was still willing to accept her friend’s fantasy.
Christine Christie and Celia Reinbolt brought great warmth as Rosie the bag lady and Agnes the toilet attendant as they enjoyed a birthday celebration while toasting their late friend with a few mugs of whisky. Christine’s performance as Rosie was heartfelt and earthy, and Celia’s re-enactment of the various lavatory visitors was a real treat.
Special mention must go to the younger members of the company Sophie Errington and Amy Ambrose who, although playing supporting roles, deftly handled some difficult dramatic sequences.
As you’d expect from Wargrave Theatre Workshop, the attention to detail was spot on in every aspect, from the well thought-out costume choices to the simple raised set and subtle sound design.
This play was poignant and certainly relevant as we adapt to this “new normal” way of living. Now, more than ever, we need family, friendship and togetherness.
Thank you for a wonderful and thought-provoking afternoon of much-needed theatre.