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When a bench becomes a confession booth

A bench in a park might just be a bench, but in the absolutely delicious Bench you will not look at a bench in the same way ever again.
What you will see is Hendry and Dwain, two criminal delinquents about to embark on their most daring job to date. Two hopeless crooks, who conspire to commit an optimistic million-dollar crime that is fermented in their minds and needs to desperately materialise.

If there is one reason to see this charming one act play it is for the superb performances by Brent Palmer and Adrian Collins, whose chemistry and teamwork vividly bring these delightful characters to life.

In the tradition of plays like Edward Albee's Zoo Story, it is amazing how much can happen in a contained, intimate space, where a bench becomes a confession booth where we witness the thoughts and actions of characters; the voyeuristic nature of the audience telescopes in on every miniscule detail.

A scrambled mind game

What's really great about Bench, written by Palmer and directed by Michael Kirch, is that it is one of those plays that skillfully draws you into the mindset of the characters, then gradually peels away the layers until you are left with a different picture - what they think and what they say (and even how their verbal communication becomes a scrambled mind game) results in lots of fun.

It's a suspicious occasion, where every action and non-action reveals major plotting under construction.

The more these glorious fools try to hide their hidden agendas, the more obvious their fumbling and scheming becomes, resulting in some hilarious action, interaction and reaction between the dynamic duo.

Palmer and Collins are a match made in heaven; Palmer is well known for his comedy in shows like Credit Crunch and this production shows what a fine performer he is, just as Collins' shrewd sense of humour reminds us of his brilliant performance in Frank 'n Stein and is completely contrasted by his hardcore performance in Sarah Kane's Blasted.

In Bench, Collins' passive-aggressiveness and Palmer's suave and greasy cockiness result in an amusing and entertaining unravelling of characters and story with surprising revelations.

The silent and irate puppy-dog bully

It is fantastic to witness how Palmer desperately (but cautiously) tries to soft soap and manipulate Collins, and Collins is absolute brilliant as the silent and irate puppy-dog bully who is like a lit stick of dynamite with a very, very short fuse.

The sharp script allows for humour to illuminate the idiotic mindset of two criminal masterminds, whose bark is most definitely worse than their bite.

Bench is a witty exploration of an ordinary event that spirals out of control and brings out the best and the worst, as well as the dim-witted nature of cruel but raw intentions.

We invest in the positive and even if the pay-off might seem negative, it is the journey's end that keeps our attention.

What's really funny about Bench is how the idiotic brilliance of the master crime sparks an amusing confrontation between logic and lunacy, where sense and absurdity clash head-on with hilarious consequences.

Revealing fragile humanity

The production cleverly unveils the true nature of the characters, stripping them bare and revealing their naked vulnerability and fragile humanity.

With characters like Hendry and Dwain crime is safe in South Africa and we can sleep peacefully; for once we can laugh at the fragile disposition of criminals and not be shocked by their brutal actions.

The genuine giggles from my partner in crime at the play, as well as the rowdy laughter and attentive scrutiny of the audience makes it clear that Bench is a winner.

Invest time and effort to see the play. The reward is great.

It will be a sinful crime to miss this fresh and entertaining production that makes going to the theatre a pleasure and also serves as a reminder of how great is it to be on the other side of the bench.

The play is on Wednesdays to Sundays until 7 October. Performances start at 8.30pm, except on Sundays when it starts at 8pm. Doors open at 6.30pm and seating is unreserved. Dinner is served from 7pm when guests can enjoy a delicious two or three course meal created by Kalk Bay Theatre's chef, Hannah McMahon, with dessert and coffee after the show. For all bookings and further information go to

About Daniel Dercksen

As a freelance film and theatre journalist for more than 30 years, published playwright and creator of the independent training initiative The Writing Studio, Daniel Dercksen received the number one spot for most popular lifestyle contributor for 2012, 2014 and 2015, and 2nd spot in 2016 on