Let me introduce you to Sue, Clarence and Robyn a trio of friends, all teachers at the same school, that were thrown in the deep end after the fourth member of their group suddenly died. The Bench explores the grief of three individuals who are so selfish they can’t comprehend that each of them are going through something terrible in their own unique way.
We start with a close up shot of our trios faces. Sue is confused and repulsed. Robyn has their eyes closed basking in the moment. Clarence is bitting their bottom lip waiting for the judgment to come.
The camera slowly zooms out to show all three sat at the bench.
Sue is in a slim tailored suit, Robyn has a flowing summer dress they wore to their mother’s wedding last Spring and Clarence is in full black from their wide brim cap, though their billowing cape down to their pointed leather boots, the only thing puncturing the darkness is giant bejewelled eagle broach.
SUE: You have got to be fucking kidding me. What the fuck is all this. (Sue wafts her hand in front of her)
CLARENCE: It’s The Bench! The Bench! It’s the bench we all discussed. It’s what he would have wanted.
ROBYN: I think it’s perfect. Ben would have loved it here.
SUE: Robyn. Don’t be such a dumb bitch. Which part of this do you think he would have enjoyed? Name the top three things that you can see in front of you that he would have enjoyed. I mean, I can see two white guys with dreadlocks slacklining between those trees and that’s just embarrassing for everyone involved.
ROBYN: Well he loved dogs and look how many there are! They’re everywhere. I count at least three and those are the top three things he would have enjoyed.
We see the dogs, they aren’t the healthiest looking. Two are humping away and the other is feasting on a brick.
SUE: Great. We’re in a dog park. We’re in a dog park on a bench thinking about our dead friend. Clarence can you explain to me why we are in this dog park that A. We have never been to before in our lives and B. Our dearly departed friend Ben not once in living memory mentioned liking, enjoying or ever attending.
ROBYN: I love it. A beautiful view (Sue and Clarence glance at each other) and it’s got a good bounce to it (Robyn starts bopping up and down on the bench.) Is there an option to take it home with me? I think it would look good in my living room.
SUE: What words are you saying to me? What did you just make me hear? You want to take the bench home?
Yes Robyn, that sounds lovely. Invite us all over for a nice comfy sit on a living room bench. (In a mocking tone) Grandma come and look at my new bench. It’s like a sofa but infinitely shitter.
CLARENCE: Can we not just say a few nice words about Ben and then go. I think that ratty one over there’s foaming at the mouth. (Clarence nods towards a dog that’s snarling and chewing on a baby dolls arm.)
ROBYN: Ok I’ll start. We love you Ben. You will always have a special place in our hearts. The way you ran… I want to say marathons?!
SUE: He ran 14 of them. He raised over a million pounds for Stand up for Children! It was his main topic of conversation! How are you so vague on this?
ROBYN: I knew he loved running. I don’t need to know the specifics of what you all do. I just feel the energy.
(Sue’s eyes roll at the use of the word energy. Robyn touches the air around Sue and Clarence, they both bat her away.)
SUE: Which kind of makes it even more offensive that our friend, who famously loved running, now has a bench. The exact opposite of running. He told us repeatedly after he was paralysed that he hated sitting and would happily never sit again. Why couldn’t we get him something useful like … a bridge, or a zip line or just about anything on this god forsaken planet that gets people moving more than a bench.
CLARENCE: I’m sorry. I panicked. It seemed like a nice thing to do. And …and you all said yes.
ROBYN: I always say yes, it’s the only way of opening new opportunities and hearts.
CLARENCE: (ignoring Robyn and glaring at Clarence) It was the first thing that popped into your head wasn’t it. You thought. Oh, our friend Ben. I know what he’d like to have his name on forever. An object that sounds very similar to his name.
CLARENCE: I can’t tell you how much I wish that wasn’t true. I didn’t see you coming up with anything though.
SUE: I was busy
CLARENCE: Busy doing what? Were you writing a beautiful eulogy you’re going to read for us now? Did you arrange the flowers I somehow didn’t notice at the funeral. Did you reach out to all our friends and let them know?
No you didn’t!
You didn’t do a fucking thing and we had to sit there in that sad little room, just three of us, flowerless and friendless as we watched Ben get shimmied along into the incinerator.
(Robyn starts crying)
SUE: Grow the fuck up Robyn, we’re in public. Cry when you’re alone at night like normal people. Well if I’m such a fuck up Clarence. Do explain why this bench is in a dog park, right next to an extremely full dog shit bin.
(We now see the dog waste bin is sat right beside the bench. So close it could be the fourth member of the group.)
CLARENCE: This is just the spot they gave us. When I called the council and asked about a commemorative bench they asked a bunch of questions, asked me to describe Ben, what he was like etc. and they said they had the perfect spot.
ROBYN: I bet you described him beautifully.
SUE:I don’t. What did you tell them. How did you describe our friend?
CLARENCE: I said he was happy and full of the joys of life
SUE: Go on…
CLARENCE: That he was a loyal friend that was always by your side when you needed him.
SUE: Mmmhmmmm and
CLARENCE: And I might have said that he loves to run and play.
SUE: For fucks sake.
ROBYN: Do you think he’ll come back as a dog now?
SUE: Well I hope so so he can enjoy his stupid bench more than we are. Did anyone bring booze? I’ve got to run detention this evening for Fiona, good lord I hate her, and I do not want to do it sober.
Clarence pulls out a bottle of champagne and four plastic cups and balances them on the dog poo bin as he pours a glass for everyone. He passes them down the line.
Clarence: To Ben!