The Bench review at Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘engages right up to the last’
Tightly wound and shot through with an utterly surprising melancholy, Keir McAllister’s tale of two men feuding over their right to relax and find peace on a public park bench engages right up until the last.
McAllister performs this exercise in passive-aggressive control with fellow comedian Paul Sneddon, so there is little surprise that the changes of pace and focus can be extremely funny – to the point where some are in danger of being gags, rather than serving the plot.
Fortunately director Jojo Sutherland helps both McAllister and Sneddon steer their characters away from using such moments for purely comic effect, although their comic timing is not dimmed. She also helps them to bring out characters who are far more complex than their petty nigglings would at first indicate.
McAllister convinces as the office worker who is losing the plot, although earlier enlargement of the character would help the piece. Sneddon has the kind of face that screams “funny” but here uses it well for the opposite effect in creating the bitterness of his character.
A stage that is barely bigger than the bench being fought over doesn’t help the performance, but ultimately it transcends such limitations and deserves a larger forum.