“Depending on how you use it, I guess, thought is our salvation and our damnation” – Man One
A Bench at the Edge by American playwright Luigi Jannuzzi is an abstract, avant-garde two-hander that explores ideas surrounding life, death, suicide and the abyss. As two lost souls meet at the edge, they probe at the dark shadows of society, asking what drives people to this place, and what makes them want to keep on living.
This is the first full-length production from Glasgow-based CROSSFADE Theatre Company, the brainchild of Nicola Todd and Rachel D’Arcy – two recent graduates of the MLitt Theatre Studies programme. The company’s ambition is to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage young people in the local community to engage with the theatre medium and to open up about their own experiences.
What made Jannuzzi’s work a perfect choice for CROSSFADE is its considered and complex approach to a dark subject matter. A Bench at the Edge unflinchingly explores the damage people are capable of inflicting on themselves and on others, yet it is also staunchly life-affirming, witty, and, at times, very funny. Every rehearsal was spent discovering and balancing these light and dark moments, striving to allow audiences to think about these issues without being driven to the brink of despair by them.
This play is, in my opinion a dramaturg’s dream. Working on a text and a production that allows for such creativity and possibility was both terrifying and exhilarating. Jannuzzi’s play is deceptively complex, and there were so many paths we could have chosen (including some that audience members came up with). A Bench at the Edge is a play that I could work on again and again, for its intricacy, its sensitive portrayal of mental health, and for what it has to show us about the human condition.
Written by: Elspeth Sweatman, MLitt Playwriting and Dramaturgy
Photography: Christopher Todd