A delightful social evening saw the launch of The Bridge House Theatre’s autumn and winter season last week.
There really is no excuse for not making it a regular place to frequent
As a prelude to the event artistic director Luke Adamson and associate director Joseph Lindoe sent out an invitation to all their mailing list subscribers and some press for the night of nibbles, drinks and announcements; a simple yet imaginative idea that drew in both regulars and newcomers along with some who were contributing to the season's programme. A PowerPoint presentation on a large screen saw the guys perform a double act that introduced their plans for the forthcoming months. They revealed that several companies are set to return after previous successful runs and that there are also plenty of debut plays and performers
It was encouraging to hear from them that the monthly Drag Bingo will continue to occupy the beer garden and from organisers Sarah Finigan and Katy Morgan that the bi-monthly Off The Page will further the ambitions of writers with readings of new works. For all the youngsters eager to become involved in the creative arts, the free weekly Youth Theatre on a Saturday afternoon will encourage their development and keep them moving forward in their dreams for the future.
A strong 'brain' theme is present in many of the offerings. Mess Maker, Havisham, and Truth, Love and Madness encompass mental health, neurodiversity, PTSD and related issues in a variety of dramatic, comedic and entertaining forms. Then it will be time to embrace the spirit of Halloween and find out how your head will deal with The Girl in the Green Room, a brand new ghost story from the award-nominated in-house team, inspired by the writing of the famous Penge Poet, Walter De La Mare. After which there is the opportunity to find out what happens when ‘the god of madness, ecstasy, and wildness’ is let loose in SE20, when the local theme is given another twist in the revival of Annie Siddons' Dennis of Penge.
Powerful female-led work confronts a number of issues that have beset women throughout history, told in both modern and period stories. In this genre the season opens with One Under Par, an exploration of the past relationship between fifteen-year-old Birdie and her older boss when they reconnect after seven years. Time, language and living with (and without) each other are the themes of Same Sky, a tender and beautiful examination that is a little bit lyrical and a little bit fantastical. In contrast, and reversing the title of the famous musical, the dark comedy, Dolls and Guys will draw us into a dystopian fairy-tale in which women wait to be picked from the shelf by 'the one' and in theory live happily ever after. But for those who like their drama formulated around true stories, combined with an element of crime and horror, The Drowning Girls is a powerful and thought-provoking play inspired by the real-life 'Brides in the Bath murders' that occurred in early 1900s London.
Making a most welcome return to the Bridge House, the celebrated Mark Farrelly will perform his insightful five-star solo show Jarman, while Richard Curnow makes his Penge debut with Call Me Oz, another solo performance that this time explores the LGBTQ+ themes within Hamlet from the point of view of 'confirmed bachelor', Osric.
Further new works come in the form of The Loaf. Writer/director Alan Booty was present to explain his background in German studies and teaching which led him to create this play based on a short German story Das Brot, in which a loaf of bread causes the relationship between a husband and wife to fall apart in the aftermath of World War II. Another collision is explored when human loneliness confronts artificial intelligence in the comedy Wifi-Sexual, while Dead Ting deals in themes of male mental health and grief with satire and integrity.
After which it will be time for something completely different, that occupies a unique seasonal genre. To get us in the mood, and to check who’s behind us, Britain’s Got Talent finalist Mama G inserts The Magic Bookmark into the Christmas slot; the first of two family-friendly shows. Then the moment every punter and parent in Penge and parts beyond has been waiting for, it’s the award-nominated in-house pantomime Jack & The Beanstalk that will a make a triumphant return to round off the year and see us into 2024.
By which time we’ll be ready for more drinks and nibbles and eager to find what the new year holds for us in Luke and Joe’s own PowerPoint panto. And for anyone not familiar with Penge, the theatre is upstairs in the imposing Bridge House pub. The building dates from 1867 and is on two railway lines. Penge East station is only seven minutes away by foot on the Chatham main-line route from Victoria and better news still, Penge West, on the Overground network is virtually next door, just a two minute walk, and also has trains from Victoria.
The pub itself is an architectural delight with an interior on different levels, a graceful half-flight of spiral stairs, an extensive outside seating area and a garden to the rear. Good quality and reasonable prices extend to Sunday lunch in addition to the daily menu, wines and a selection of draught beers and lagers. Along with a Quiz Night on Thursdays, there really is no excuse for not making it a regular place to frequent.