Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 30 November 2019
Last night I went to see Off the Cliff’s production of Luigi Jannuzzi’s 1981 short play A Bench At The Edge at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
For those who are not familiar with the play, it is a darkly comic, absurdist two-hander about suicide. Someone (Number One) sits contentedly on a bench enjoying the view. That peace is disrupted by the arrival of a loud and distressed other (Number Two). The bench is by the abyss, and Number Two has come to jump into it. Number One lives there, but why would anyone live on the edge of the abyss? Does Number One want to stop Number Two jumping, or is she there to give her the final nudge she needs to brave the dive? Jannuzzi’s comedy can be cast in any gender combination. With this production Number One and Number Two are both female.
Meg Lake plays Number One with a very natural and realistic zen-like calm, as she skilfully evades Number Two’s questions, focusing the interrogation back on to Number Two. Lake’s is an assured performance, skilfully taking us through Number One’s twisting and ambiguous motivations.
Harriet Main brings Number Two to life with an abrasive howling despair. At first she jars, shattering the peace of the opening scene. As we watch Number Two navigate her existential crisis Main’s performance becomes more accessible and relatable, particularly in the more introspective moments.
Director Kasia Różycki leans into the absurdity of the play without unnecessary distractions or complications. The use of the cello (our cellist is Samuel Creer) to soundtrack and punctuate the piece is very effective, adding to both the comedy and the pathos of the piece.
This is an enjoyable and sensitive production of this thought-provoking and off-beat comedy. It runs at the Tristan Bates at 6.15pm (+1pm Sat) until 30th November