Jim Spencer Broadbent is a playwright based in South-East London, so he is delighted to be presenting his play The Recollection of Tony Ward as one of twenty-seven companies contributing to the first Peckham Fringe that is currently being held at Theatre Peckham.
succinct, focused, moving and superbly performed
He specialises in one-act works that tell stories which, in his words, ‘benefit from their lack of embellishment, forming strong relationships between audience members and characters’. He has no formal training in either writing or performing but brings his experience in many aspects of life to the creative process. Still a young man, he has met with success in all he has written so far. This latest piece should prove to be no exception.
The Recollection of Tony Ward has the simplicity of approach that he boasts. It's a straightforward reminiscence and reflection by the sole character Tony Ward. Now aged fifty-one, Tony finds himself back in his childhood home sleeping in the same bedroom he occupied when growing up. Why? His divorce has just been granted and he has no other option than to mave back to the family home. Things were not supposed to work out like this, despite his own misgivings about the marriage. It would have been more bearable if he had been the one to end it, but his wife beat him to it. Now he is alone, without her or his son, in a box room as empty as his life. Yet the space is full of memories and these come back to him in highs and lows, recalling youthful interactions with his mum, dad and older brother, the one who had the full-sized bedroom and the friends who have since moved on.
Although he wrote the play, Broadbent was not supposed to be performing it last Sunday. He’d been in rehearsals with an actor of the right age for several weeks who phoned him the day before to say that he was pulling out as he still couldn’t remember all the lines. Having never acted before Broadbent decided the show must go on and that he would do the two Sunday performances. That desicion might prove life-changing. We were not told this, so accepted the performance at face value, as though it was all exactly as intended. What he pulled off was a triumph.
The difference between his own age and that of Tony did seem a little odd, but with Ian McKellen having recently played Hamlet in his eighties what do a few years matter? It meant he brought a level of agility and physicality to the performance that was superbly synced with dramatic sound and lighting effects. It gave a sense that he had taken on the boyishness of the lad who had occupied the room for so many years while recounting the tragedy of his later life. That story was told with feeling, sometimes in soft tones, with sadness and disappointment, but then with anger and resentment and the rage of someone betrayed by the world. He did it all with sincerity, honesty and passion.
I really hope he goes on to write more works of this calibre and style and also that he takes up acting himself. He has the necessary magical quality of stage presence. This is exactly the sort of material a Fringe Festival should attract: succinct, focused, moving and superbly performed. Congratulations also to Theatre Peckham for mounting this. May they have many successful years ahead of them.