The Customs House Presents The Bench: A Moving Tale of Love, Loss, and Football.

Renowned South Shields arts centre The Customs House returns to its position as a leading North East production house this September with The Bench; a heart-warming tale of love, loss, and football, written by BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown, with direction by up-and-coming Scottish director Olivia Millar- Ross.

The cast: Jason Njoroge as Adi, Hannah Marie Davisas Vicky, Abigail Lawson as Ange, and Adam Donaldson as Mike, commence rehearsals on Monday 4th September ahead of a run of shows from Wednesday 20th September.​

The Bench is the second play by BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown to make the professional stage and, like the first, it delves into the underside of football.

But unlike Cornered, which was based on a true story, this is pure fiction, a tale of two young people against the odds, just trying to do the right thing, and yes, one of them is a footballer.

The Bench tells the story of complete strangers. Their paths cross on a park bench and in the ensuing week they find that, despite their very different lives, they have more in common than they think.

Vicky is struggling as a single mum and carer for her mother.  Adi is a multi-millionaire recent signing with the world at his feet, but his traumatic past has left him unable to make friends – or score goals – until he meets Vicky.

There are many people giving them advice, but in the end, they must resolve the age-old dilemma of whether to follow their heart or their head.

Jeff commented “It’s a moving, uplifting love story and it’s also a reminder of how hard it is to be young and to find a glimmer of hope and happiness, no matter what riches are laid at your door.” 

Jeff honed his playwrighting skills on a course at Newcastle’s Live Theatre.  He is well known for his support of several local charities, one of which helped inspire the idea behind the play.  

“Being a patron of Sunderland Carers opened my eyes to the incredible resilience of the many young people looking after others, sometimes sacrificing their childhood as a result.”

“I’ve seen how hard it is for young footballers to up sticks at a moment’s notice and start their lives over in a different team, in a different town or even a different country, no matter how much money is involved,” he said.

Director Olivia Millar- Ross added “The Bench is a beautiful story of finding love in unexpected places. I am really excited to be collaborating with the cast and creative team on this project to bring Jeff’s play to life.”

Jeff’s previous play, Cornered, was directed by Paul Dunn, and opened at The Customs House in 2017.  It lifted the curtain on the years of verbal and physical abuse suffered by former Sunderland footballer David Corner, after the teenager’s unwitting role in the team’s defeat by Norwich City at the 1985 Milk Cup final at Wembley. The play, which toured several North East venues, won critical acclaim.

“The Bench is very different,” said Jeff. “It’s a work of fiction, which is an attempt to show how hard it seems for young people to be able to pursue their aims and be happy these days.  I hope it reflects our times, and that it’ll resonate with audiences at The Customs House.”

The Customs House Executive Director, Ray Spencer commented “I first saw an extract from this play in 2018 and Jeff has revisited the script many times and now with Olivia’s vision and a brilliant cast, it’s ready to be seen on stage. I hope theatre lovers are as excited to see it as I am.”

The Bench is at The Customs House from Wednesday 20th September through to Saturday 23rd September. Tickets are £12 and available from or by calling the box office on 0191 454 1234.

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