Upton Theatre Group visit to the Watermill Theatre to see Untold Stories
Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, by Alan Bennet
On Tuesday 7th June, 14 of us had a very enjoyable visit to the Watermill Theatre, 12 having the pre theatre buffet meal. The weather was warm & dry as we arrived so it was pleasant to wander down to the stream to see the sculptures and watch the antics of the ducks. During the interval it poured with rain so some of us got a little wet!
Untold Stories is a double bill of memoirs based on his 2005 collection of diaries, recollections and essays. In Hymn, a play set to live music by George Fenton, Bennett, played with thoughtfulness by Roger Ringrose, recalls the hymns and music that underscored his childhood. It was a reflection on the gentle way things were then and a childhood and youth long past.
A live string quartet played while Bennett remembered his disappointment at his failure to play the violin despite his father’s mastery of the instrument, with no encouragement from his own father. Bennett’s passion for music was activated by his weekly trips to Leeds Town Hall to see the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, launched in 1947. A customer of his father’s butcher shop , the Entertainment Officer of Leeds City council, would pass on a couple of complimentary tickets to the Saturday night concerts. His father would accompany music played on the radio with his violin. As a member of the church congregation Alan felt that he belonged to a group, whereas he usually felt an outsider, looking in on other people’s lives, not really sharing.
Glimpses of his early life with Mam and Dad are shared in Cocktail Sticks, as Bennett in dialogue with his fictionalised versions of Mam and Dad bemoaned the lack of a “proper childhood “ with the right kind of trauma to equip him as a writer. “Well we took you to Morecambe”, replied Mam. Lucy Tregear was brilliant and sympathetic as Mam, depicting both the eager excitement at the anticipation of living the style and social fashion shown in her womens magazines and the doubt and confusion caused by her son’s lack of warmth and appreciation of her efforts to please him. Dad too (Richard Gibson) retreated into shyness when he realised that his best just wasn’t good enough for his clever son. Bennett looked back, after their death, with love and affection but pain too at the little everyday things that his parents had given him, including source material for this funny and witty play.