Lockdown park bench plays tour Black Country

A series of plays exploring life in lockdown has toured Black Country venues to bring new theatre to local communities.

 Appearing in Birmingham Rep tour of a series of 'Park Bench Plays', actors Taja Luegaezor Christian, as Janelle, and Liam Jeavons, as Terry, at Dorothy Parkes Centre, Smethwick.
Appearing in Birmingham Rep tour of a series of 'Park Bench Plays', actors Taja Luegaezor Christian, as Janelle, and Liam Jeavons, as Terry, at Dorothy Parkes Centre, Smethwick.

The Park Bench Plays are a series of 10 micro-plays commissioned by the Birmingham Rep to tour venues around the West Midlands in areas where theatre is harder to access.

Artistic director of the Birmingham Rep, Sean Foley, said: "What makes this so utterly unique is that the collection takes ordinary and everyday conversations and turns them into extraordinary and timeless pieces of mini-theatre – which people around the region can watch, while out and about doing their daily activities.

"The past 18 months have been particularly challenging for the arts sector, but The REP is very proud to have been able to support local artists."

One of the mini-plays on the tour is a piece by playwright David Edgar about the racial tensions surrounding statues in the UK and how society has changed since the death of George Floyd in 2020, sparking the Black Lives Matter riots.

In the play, a black woman in her 20s and a white man in his 60s clash over their different stances on history and racism, as two generations and two races meet.

Actress Taja Luegaevor Christian from Erdington who stars in the piece, is incredibly proud to be in the production.

She said: "It was an honour to perform it, and very empowering to know that someone out there is an ally and is writing these stories for us."

By taking the plays into new environments, the cast have enjoyed receiving feedback from people who don't normally go to the theatre.

The 32-year old said: "It's been very different. One woman said 'That was a great piece. I don't think I ever would have thought about it like that before'.

"And it's made me realise why we do theatre, and how amazing it is to take it out into the community."

Appearing in Birmingham Rep tour of a series of 'Park Bench Plays', actors Taja Luegaezor Christian, as Janelle, and Liam Jeavons, as Terry, at Dorothy Parkes Centre, Smethwick.

Actor Liam Jeavons from Quinton also feels pride at being able to take these new works out for new audiences.

The 30-year-old actor said: "It's amazing to take them to these new centres, to take theatre to places which aren't massive venues.

"We're bringing theatre to their doorstep, for people who don't normally have time to go into Birmingham to see theatre.

"We've had lots of tears and great feedback. Everyone has been affected in some way.

"Everyone knows someone who lost someone from Covid. Every piece strikes a chord with someone in the audience."

The plays cover a range of different lockdown experiences, from bereaved family members, to couples drifting apart.

Each play involves a conversation between two people sitting on a park bench, trying to talk to each other across a gulf of different experiences.

Through these plays, people are forced to confront their problems, whether that's addiction, mortality, or the people they love changing irreversibly.

Lockdown provides a perfect setting for drama, as Mr Jeavons said: "Lockdown gave everyone time to think and reflect. There was nothing to distract us."

The Park Bench plays toured the West Midlands from September 28 to October 9, stopping off at Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, and Smethwick.

The final performances are in Birmingham on October 9, at the Library Terrace at 12pm, and the Old Print Works at 4pm.

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