engine house theatre presents Park Bench Theatre at Rowntree Park, York, from 12th August – 5th September.
The outdoor season of monologues for all ages demonstrates real ingenuity and creativity, which is a treat for everyone here in Yorkshire! Set in the spacious gardens of Rowntree Park, audiences can rest assured that they’ll be able to keep socially distanced.
Matt Aston, artistic director of engine house theatre, directs First Love and Teddy Bears’ Picnic (of which he is co-creator) and is the author of Every Time a Bell Rings (Tom Bellerby directs this one). He’s previously directed performances in the Studio at York Theatre Royal so he’s well known in theatrical circles in the city.
First Love by Samuel Beckett is being performed by Chris Hannon (I saw him as the panto dame at Theatre Royal Wakefield last year and thought he was wonderful!). The monologue is a signature Beckett balance of comedy and tragedy.
Every Time A Bell Rings follows Cathy as she emerges from isolation on Easter Sunday 2020. Cathy will be played by Lisa Howard, who’s worked extensively with both Northern Broadsides and Slung Low.
Finally, Teddy Bears’ Picnic is a premiere inspired by the song and based on an original idea by Julian Butler. It is co-created and performed by Cassie Vallance, co-created and directed by Matt Aston.
Each of the performances lasts less than an hour, so there’ll be no interval.
Matt Aston, artistic director of engine house theatre, says: “I used to do my daily lockdown exercise in Rowntree Park where I had the idea of someone sitting on a park bench and thinking about what they are going through. The isolation and the fact that she might actually have been isolated for many years. I then remembered First Love was also set on a park bench and the idea rolled on from that.
“It’s so exciting to be able to get to present some actual live theatre. A rarely-performed Samuel Beckett, a brand new play and something for all the family inspired by a classic song. All performed on and around a park bench.”
Helen Apsey, Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Make It York, said: “This is a fantastic initiative to bring live theatre back to York in the beautiful surroundings of Rowntree Park. It is a great addition to the city’s summer offering – providing a safe outdoor theatre experience designed for families and people of all ages.”
Abigail Gaines, Friends of Rowntree Park trustee, said: “We are thrilled to have open air theatre in Rowntree Park. The park has been a lifeline to many during lockdown, and hearing it inspired the writing of one of the plays makes hosting the performance even more meaningful. The park is a key place for families and we know they will love the family performances. The Friends of Rowntree Park always support Arts in the Park and are very much looking forward to the shows”.
As is always the case in these COVID-19 times, there are plenty of rules and regulations in place to keep us all safe. This includes where to sit, what to bring and what happens if it rains. In short, you must arrive a little early as seating is unreserved, you must keep your distance from people and if it rains you’ll just have to deal with it – umbrellas aren’t allowed!
Full details and listings information can be found on the website parkbenchtheatre.com.