Park Bench is a deconstruction of modern relationships with a difference. We follow a young couple from first meeting to last goodbye, guided through by what appears to be a researcher studying this particularly case. It isn’t always clear whether the couple are aware of this other presence – sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t – and there could possibly do with being a little more clarity around what her purpose is, but the concept feels fresh and allows for a new twist on a story we may have seen before.
Something the show does very well is show the frustrations and dysfunctions that arise within a relationship – there is a scene where the couple in question disagree on how to spend their shared day off that feels achingly real – but a tendency to play up the comedy lessens the emotional impact and weakens the performance. All three performers have a good presence and there are some lovely moments showing us the physical rhythm a long-term relationship can slip in to. Jody Kelly gives a particularly strong performance as a girl who has her whole life ahead of her but somehow feels she has missed the boat.
The ending throws us a slight curveball, and in doing so causes some thematic confusion. While at times is seems that the central relationship is not a particularly healthy one, overall Park Bench is a wonderfully authentic exploration of what modern life looks like for a couple in their early twenties.