CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Review: Park Bench at Park Theatre

The theatre reopens with a likeable and sensitive two-hander by Tori Allen-Martin on the pitfalls of open relationships

13 August, 2021 — By Lucy Popescu

Park Bench
Park Theatre
☆☆☆☆

Tim Bowie and Tori Allen-Martin in Park Bench. Photo: Mark Douet

PARK Theatre used the enforced closure to refurbish their space and make it more accessible. They’ve extended the downstairs bar, built a new mezzanine, installed pizza ovens (the old kitchen has become a box office) and new TV screens for latecomers.

Matching their snazzy uplift, the theatre reopens with a likeable two-hander by Tori Allen-Martin. It’s an inspired decision to divide their first production into two acts and move from digital to live performance just as audiences are getting used to making this transition.

The first 15 minutes of Park Bench is available online. Directed by Christa Harris, it piques our interest and prepares the ground for the second part (50 minutes) staged in the theatre’s main auditorium.

Liv (Allen-Martin) and Theo (Tim Bowie) used to be best friends. They also slept together – numerous times – but agreed not to be “exclusive”. A betrayal destroyed their comfortable “situationship” and coronavirus kept them apart.

Reconnecting on Zoom during lockdown, Theo tells Liv that the daughter he thought he’d fathered with someone else isn’t actually his. Liv has been wrestling with her own issues but doesn’t want to discuss them online. They agree to meet in person on their favourite park bench.

Park Bench is a sensitive play about friendship, love and depression. Miscommunication and past events have conspired against Liv and Theo, who circle around each other as they try to gauge whether what’s broken can be fixed.

They agree they’ve both taken advantage of each other and that they still have feelings. But Liv wants more. And Theo admits that his bronze kind of loving might not match her gold. Can they find their way back to one another?

Allen-Martin writes well about the intricacies and pitfalls of open relationships and in the second half, co-directed by Sarah Henley and Timothy O’Hara, Allen-Martin and Bowie’s natural chemistry is thrilling to watch.

There are two socially distanced performances every day so catch it while you can.

Until August 14
020 7870 6876
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

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