Live theatre returns to York next week – with performances in the park

Ready to perform! Photograph: Engine House Theatre
6 Aug 2020 @ 10.07 am
| Entertainment

Live theatre will return to York with a series of outdoor performances in Rowntree Park.

Park Bench Theatre is a series of monologues for all ages staged in the park from 12 August to 5 September. 

The productions will be presented in carefully laid out and spacious gardens, allowing audiences to keep socially distanced from each other.

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.”

Engine House Theatre is presenting the productions. Artistic director Matt Aston said: “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.

“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.”

The shows

First Love by Samuel Beckett

Wed 12 – Sat 22 August, 7pm
8 & 15 August, 4pm matinee
Tickets: £10

A man, a woman, a recollection. One of Samuel Beckett’s most masterful stories, First Love is awash with Beckett’s signature balancing of comedy and tragedy. Performed by Chris Hannon, directed by Matt Aston. 

Running time 45 minutes approx. Contains very strong language. 

Every Time a Bell Rings, by Matt Aston

Wed 19 Aug – Sat 5 Sept, 7pm.
22 Aug & 5 Sept, 4pm matinee
Tickets: £10

Lockdown. Easter Sunday 2020. Cathy emerges from her own isolation and searches for solace on her favourite park bench in her favourite park. A touching, funny and poignant look at how the world is changing through these extraordinary times. Performed by Lisa Howard, directed by Tom Bellerby.

Running time 50 minutes approx. Contains very strong language. 

Teddy Bears’ Picnic

11.30am & 1.30pm on 19-22, 27-29, 31 August & 1-5 September
Tickets: £5

Every year Jo’s family used to have a big family gathering – a teddy bears’ picnic. It was brilliant. Then she got too old and too cool for that sort of thing. So she stopped going. But now she’s grown up … she wishes she could have them all over again.
Premiere inspired by the song and based on an original idea by Julian Butler. Co-created and performed by Cassie Vallance, co-created and directed by Matt Aston.

Running time 30 mins approx. Suitable for everyone aged 3 and over. Audiences are invited to bring along their favourite teddy and a picnic.

Where and how

Rowntree Park. Photograph: YorkMix

The performance area: The Friends Garden in Rowntree Park in York.

Headphones will be required to hear the dialogue, sound effects and music in performances. All audience members will be given a receiver on entry which headphones can be plugged into. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own (no wireless or Bluetooth ones – they must be ‘plug in’ headphones or earphones). You can purchase takeaway headphones for £1 when you book your ticket online, which can be collected when you visit. 

Seating. People are encouraged to bring blankets in the first few rows and chairs in the back few rows.

Matt directs First Love and Teddy Bears’ Picnic (of which he is co-creator) and is the author of Every Time a Bell Rings.

Matt’s adaptations of the Benji Davies children’s books Grandad’s Island and The Storm Whale both proved big hits in the Studio at York Theatre Royal last Christmas.

Every Time a Bell Rings is directed by Tom Bellerby, who has directed work across the UK and Europe.

The Park Bench Theatre performers are Lisa Howard, whose has worked extensively with both Northern Broadsides and Slung Low; Chris Hannon, pantomime dame at Theatre Royal Wakefield for over a decade and known to CBeebies viewers as Dad in Topsy and Tim; and Cassie Vallance, who appeared in The Storm Whale in York Theatre Royal Studio last Christmas.