Park Bench Theatre returns to York’s Rowntree Park in July with a new play by Olivier award-winning writer Mike Kenny to celebrate the park’s centenary this year.
The Park Keeper will be performed in The Friends’ Garden – where Park Bench Theatre staged three monologues last summer – from 7 to 17 July.
The 16 July performance is the day of the 100th birthday of Rowntree Park, which was a gift to the City of York by Messrs Rowntree & Co in 1921 and is a memorial to the Cocoa Works staff who fell and suffered during World War One.
Mike Kenny’s monologue is set in York in the summer of 1945. Rowntree Park’s first, and so far only, Park Keeper is about to retire. And that can mean only one thing – a speech. But what can he say? How can he close this chapter on his life? Will he be able to lock the gates to his kingdom one last time?
Director Matt Aston, who is artistic director of Engine House Theatre, said: “Inspired by York’s very own ‘Parky Bell’, this is a heartfelt and poignant one man show that celebrates 100 years of Rowntree Park while also asking the question ‘what happens when we’re not needed any more?
“I’m delighted that Park Bench Theatre is returning to Rowntree Park in its 100th birthday year. Mike Kenny has written a beautiful script that I’m sure will capture the hearts of everyone who has ever been to and loved the park over the years, as well as anyone who might be enjoying their first visit.”
Mike Kenny said: “This one had my name on it right from the start. It’s inspired by the story of a man coming to the end of a career he loves, trying to sum up a life lived. It’s happening in the place that it’s about, which is around the corner from where I live. On a bench where I have often sat. We set it at the end of the last War, just as the world emerged into what was hoped would be a new world. I have often felt that theatre should speak to the time and place in which it happens. Hopefully, this does that.”
The Park Keeper is played by Sean McKenzie, whose recent appearances include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (National Theatre), Two ( Derby Theatre), Ladies Day (Wolverhampton Grand); The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough); Goth Weekend (SJT Scarborough & Live Theatre); Aladdin (Theatr Clwyd) and War Horse (National Theatre UK, Ireland and South Africa tour); The Village Bike (Sheffield Crucible) and The Lady in the Van (Hull Truck and UK tour).
Abigail Gaines, from Friends of Rowntree Park, said: “We are delighted to have Park Bench return to this summer as part of Rowntree Park’s centenary celebrations. A play inspired by the park’s history is very much welcomed and we know will be warmly received by the local community. Relaxed, welcoming open-air theatre by an award-winning writers in beautiful surroundings is something not to be missed. We can’t wait!”
Helen Apsey, Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Make It York, said: “Rowntree Park is a wonderful setting for a live theatre experience and we are delighted to hear that Park Bench Theatre will be returning again this year. This will be a brilliant addition to the city’s summer offer and something really special for residents and visitors alike to enjoy as part of the park’s centenary celebrations.”
The Park Keeper:
Wed 7 to Sat 17 July
The Friends’ Garden, Rowntree Park
Previews Wed 7 July at 6pm (please note early start) and Thurs 8 at 7.30pm
Then evenings at 7.30pm (except Sun 11 July)
Running time 55 mins approx
Age guidance 12+
Contains moderately strong language.
Supported by Make It York and Friends of Rowntree Park
Previews £10, all other performances £15
Tickets on sale through York Theatre Royal box office 01904 623568
And via www.parkbenchtheatre.com