I was lucky enough to be invited to 53Two in Manchester for Bamalam Productions’ launch of their new audio drama, All The Bens.
Bamalam Productions is a company providing a platform for new and creative talent: they create a collection of audio dramas written by contemporary writers and performed by new acting talent. The company was created by James Steventon and Lauren Sturgess who, after graduating as actors from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in 2017, have gone on to produce many audio plays and podcast series, some of which have starred famous talents such as Julie Hesmondhalgh (who you might have known as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street), as well as emerging artists from across the UK.
All The Bens is their latest audio play and their first back, following the two year (was it two? I’ve lost track) lockdown. All The Bens, is an award-winning play written by Mancunian writer, Ian Townsend. It was first performed at Manchester’s 24:7 festival in 2012 and later adapted for audio by Ian Winterton.
It follows the story of Ben (played by It’s A Sin star Nathaniel Hall), a young gay man whose life changes when he has a one night stand with ‘Al’ (played by Jack Bence) – also named Ben but you’ll have to listen to the play to find out about that, a charming man, confused about his sexuality. There’s also Henry (played by Finn Walters), Ben’s autistic brother who offers a unique view of the world and his brothers “kind of relationship” with Al.
The evening began with a performance from the effervescent queen of Birmingham City, drag queen Jazmin Sparks (who you can find on Instagram as: haus_of_sparks). Jazmin opened the show with a fabulously sparkly act, with a Cheryl Cole classic intertwined with a comedy sketch from one of Lauren Cooper’s (Catherine Tate’s character) typically hilarious scenes.
We followed this by watching the trailer and were treated to a premier listen of All The Bens. The play is a sweet and warming story about love. The relationships between each character are drawn out so beautifully over the 50 minutes of the audio play. Although we don’t get too much of a back story for each character, there is an ideal amount of information for you to unwrap and invest in their stories. In particular, the relationship between brothers Ben and Henry is so authentic and pure, and for me is the most emotive love story within the piece.
As a listener it’s interesting to hear how the character of Al develops throughout, and how your opinion of him changes throughout the course of the play. The choices made by actor Jack Bence create an interesting and deep character plagued by personal turmoil; Jack himself said “as an actor I have to find something I like about the character, no matter what they had done” and this was evident in his wonderfully true depiction of Al.
We followed the premier with a Q&A with the 3 main cast members, supporting actor Joanne Dakin, director Joseph Lidster, writer Ian Townsend and adapter Ian Winterton (all the Ian’s as they joked), led by Jazmin Sparks (aka James Steventon). We were treated to tales from the making of the piece, as well as how the piece came to be in the hands of Bamalam Productions and then ended the night with a bit of a boogie to tunes from DJ Dramatikal (Michael Baines).
If you’re a fan of podcasts, then you’ll know how easy and relaxing it is to pop in your headphones and take a step back from your busy day, if only for an hour. Audio plays are perfect for those who don’t have time to stop – simply press play and listen, even while you’re on the go.
Maybe you’re not quite ready to head back to theatres after the pandemic, or maybe you are and just fancy trying something new… I would highly recommend you give this wonderful audio play a listen, a beautiful story told with such passion and purity by all involved.
You can find the play on many of your podcast sites, or head to: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5fR5NAcDEA7UWb1PWzNAze
Find out more about Bamalam Productions and keep up with the latest releases from their website: https://www.bamalamproductions.co.uk/ or find them on twitter: @BamalamP
Reviewer: Alison Ruck
Reviewed: 1st September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★