Thursday 14th August saw the performance of a new play by the Benchmark Theatre Company at YMCA Surbiton.
Stories from the Circle was a playful, well-written comedy which left the audience with a smile on their face and a renewed belief in humankind, whilst also simultaneously touching on serious issues such as anxiety, drugs and obsessive behaviour.
The play, which mixed the absurd and the unexpected with the everyday and easily recognizable, focused on topics such as self-development, the value of friendships and overcoming one’s fears and anxieties.
Salsa dancing and a raffle
From the busy Brenda, who was ‘only there to drink the tea’; to the film critic Eric Draven, who had lost his job and his family because he only gave bad reviews; to Lily who had developed anxiety and OCD from ‘a string of bad relationships’; through to the brutally honest Frank – the Benchmark cast had developed a multi-coloured palette of characters, each with their own unique personality and story to tell.
The audience was taken on a journey into the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters, and their stories were acted out with ever so playful and surprising dramatic devices: there was salsa dancing, re-enactments of famous films, music and even a real raffle, which also involved the audience!
Staged sitting in a half circle, with the audience forming the second half, the play also opened up for interactions with and involvement from the audience. The script was devised by the actors themselves, working closely with Clare Fry and Lucy Taylor, founders of the Benchmark Theatre.
Watch a video clip from Stories from the Circle:
A ‘ten out of ten’ performance!
Lucy now lives in Manchester and only drove down on the Thursday to impersonate the happy-go-lucky Brenda in the play. She said the performance was a “ten out of ten” stating:
“I am so proud of everyone involved. We only keep getting better. This is the fourth play we all do together, and the cast has been so committed and really embraced their characters. Also the technical equipment is better – this is the first time we’ve got proper professional stage lighting – and that really makes a difference. Finally, the audience keeps getting bigger and that’s great!”
Simon, a local resident from Surbiton and a member of the cast, said he was “really pleased with how well it went and also quite knackered”.
The feedback from the audience was overwhelmingly positive:
“It was eccentric – but I liked it. It was really good!” said one local resident.
Another commented that “It was absolutely amazing; you could definitely see that a lot of hard work had been put into it”.
One audience member said: “I thought it was really interesting. I especially liked that it was co-written by the cast and Clare. It was great because it looked at serious issues, whilst also being very humorous. Also the incorporation of music, dancing and different props worked really well”.
William, a resident living in the hostel at YMCA Surbiton, said “I really liked it and my favourite part was the salsa dancing”.
Finally, a local resident from Surbiton who had come to see the play said: “There was lots of audience participation, which was great, although I don’t think all of it was planned. However, it did make it extra funny. Also the technical setup was really impressive”.
Benchmark Theatre Company comprises of residents, staff and volunteers from YMCA St Paul’s Group. The company was founded three years ago by Clare Fry and Lucy Taylor, as a result of the successful promenade style theatre piece ‘Homelessness’; a project which ran in collaboration the Page to Stage Theatre Company.
Benchmark Theatre aims to make quality, relevant and challenging performances that convey a message, include our community and entertain. Follow Benchmark Theatre Company on Twitter and Facebook for updates, news and how to get in touch!