The Bench (rating 4/5)
When is a bench not a bench? The answer, according to one of the characters in this play, is when it’s a memorial to his wife Maggie. For the other, it remains a bench where he can sit and collects his thoughts.
From this simple premise, a more nuanced story unfolds, but not before the two trade insults and accusations in two funny scenes at the opening.
Sandy, played by Paul Sneddon, is in mourning. His indignation means he will broker no attempt by Joe (Keir McAllister) to sit on the bench.
The pair’s sniping, funny as it is, can only sustain the play for so long before something needs adding into the mix. That arrives with the discovery of who Maggie actually was.
It seems at first like the play could descend into comedy clichés, but a deeper story is revealed that changes Joe’s view of Sandy, if not Sandy’s view of Joe.
McAllister also wrote the play and overall blends pathos and humour to good effect to prevent it from ever drifting too far into mawkishness.
It does at times, however, feel like it’s outstaying its welcome with a few too many layers of absurdity, and some jokes stretched too far. It’s an hour-long play that feels like it would make a brilliant thirty-minute TV comedy.
Gilded Balloon, Rose Theatre until August 26 (not 20)