Reviews & Comments - Bin Men

by Mike Kenny

Here are some quotes from audience members...

The Gardener

Review: Bin Men, Nottingham Playhouse

Inventive and unusual, award-winning Mike Kenny’s latest inspiring piece of theatre is set in an everyday world with a twist – one in which a washing line may become an evil enchanter and an old umbrella could be a fearsome dragon. Sam and Don’s mundane bin run on Greyhound Street becomes a surreal adventure when Don decides one day that his broom is a horse, fashions a suit of armour out of people’s leftovers and is knighted by a resident with a toilet brush.
With its exceptional use of props and a simple but atmospheric accordion accompaniment, Bin Men swept the Playhouse audience right into its grasp.

Aimed at young children, the stage became a wonderland of interesting noises and slapstick comedy with an underlying moral message about the importance of recycling. However, for adults watching it became apparent that they were actually witnessing the progression of a man into a complete mental breakdown. Subdued and ashamed, Don returned to the stage very much changed after the play’s climax, which involved the character having tried to physically battle with the dustbin lorry.

Not just your average children’s play, Kenny has consciously written in deep undertones and some complex characters to make the piece memorable for everyone watching. It also cleverly recycles Cervante’s Don Quixote which adds extra subtle texture to the play and its theme, allowing its diverse nature to once again shine through. Thought-provoking and truly special, Bin Men is an eccentric, theatrical treat to be enjoyed by any audience.

By Nottingham Post Posted: March 02, 2014
By Lucy Roberts

Review: Bin Men, York Theatre Royal Studio

YORK playwright Mike Kenny is so prolific, so constantly inventive, that you come to believe he could create a play from any old rubbish.

Which is exactly what he does for Bin Men, a play about recyling that also recycles Cervantes’s Spanish epic, DonQuixote, the one with the dreamer, Don Quixote, and Sancho Panza, the realist. Hence the characters are called Don and Sam, although, not unreasonably, the connection will go over the head ofthe intended audience of five year olds and upwards, even if accompanying adults will enjoy the extra resonance.

Don and Sam, played by ajtc theatre company regulars Mick Jasper and Iain Armstrong respectively, are bin men with “big dreams to save the world and have fun doing it”, not only making it tidier but greener and better too. They are, in Mike Kenny’s words, “one of the invisible parts of the world” that interests him, going about their workwithout being noticed or openly appreciated. Kenny follows their weekly routine over five days as they visit three adjoining houses on Greyhound Road, denoted by photographic backdrops and gates and gardens in differing states in Jane Linz Roberts’s design.

In one lives Simon, a hoarder; next door live the Oldyfolds (a name that came to Kenny from predictive text!), a family over-spilling with children (including inquisitive Jenny) and rubbish. Next door is the tidy house and neatly orderedflowers of Dulcie, a barmaid at the Greyhound pub at the top of the street. All are played by Armstrong with the simplestof switches: a hat; a child’s bottle of juice; a flirtatious eye. In typical humorous Kenny touches, Don has a predilection for metaphors, and none of each day’s differing weather patterns, whether rain, shine or wind, suits the bin men until the not-too-hot, not-too-cold Friday, a day “like Goldilocks’s porridge”.

On receiving bad news that he does not at first impart, the dreaming, book-loving Dom vows to become the ecological Knight Of The No Longer Needed, improvising his horse and lance from brooms, just as accompanying musician Nigel Waterhouse improvises percussion from dustbins (as well as his accordion Pidge, with its repertoire of melodies and strange sounds and noises). Don encourages Simon to think of his house as a castle of treasures; Jenny to write stories; Dulcie to see herself aslady of the realm.

Outwardly, in his improvised armour, he might seem like he has flipped, yet Kenny finds amessage and a memorable messenger, one who makes people think again about rubbish and also appreciate thedifference that Don’s inspired thinking can make.

Rosamunde Hutt, who first worked with Mike 20 years ago, directs with a lovely sense of the power of storytellingand the wonder of imagination. From a rubbish idea, Mike Kenny has made theatrical magic again.

Bin Men, ajtc and York Theatre Royal
Charles Hutchinson, The Press, York

Janet Farmer, Manager, Pocklington Arts Centre, Pocklington, York March 29 2014

Thank you for a lovely well presented and well acted show.

The audience of 70 thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the message about recycling came across in a gentle, funny way.


Bin Men Review - 20th May 2013 by Ela Portnoy, Joseph Rowntree School Pupil Ambassador, Year 11

Walking into the studio at the Theatre Royal is always an experience; it’s impressive how such a small space can change so much for different performances.

But it isn’t usually the case that one walks in to find a standard looking street with two bin men chatting away to the younger members of the audience. Not sure how to tell when the play would begin, I settled into my seat and was promptly handed a very exciting looking colouring sheet (which doubled up as a programme on the back).

As the lights dimmed, the men gradually moved into freeze frames and a bin-cum-drum began beating. Banging, brooms, bins, movement, rubbish and a very imaginatively used accordion built up beautifully rich and unexpected fairytale imagery out of seemingly nothing.

Soon the audience were captured by the magical unexplored world of... well, rubbish. A beautifully collaged piece of children’s theatre, ‘Bin Men’ encompasses creative use of everyday objects to produce sound, puppetry and visual effects alongside energetic acting and storytelling.

All the details, like the little sayings of Don (my favourite being ‘a jellyfish in the sky’), the lighting which sets the different weathers and above all, the fairytale story, add to the rich nature of the piece. A special mention should be given to the smartly dressed Nigel Waterhouse who, through totally unexpected sounds and music, brought the play to life.

At the end though, you realise that the fairytale is life; you can make something beautiful out of something ‘old and unwanted’. The lessons of the play should be lessons for all, not only children.

And despite the educational aspect, ‘Bin Men’ manages to be an extremely funny, engaging and imaginative show.

All in all, Bin Men a thoroughly enjoyable short performance very much worth seeing, for children both young and not so young. I would rate it 5 stars!


Bin Men Review - 20th May 2013 by Tammi Clarke Joseph Rowntree School Pupil Ambassador, Year 7

Bin Men is a co-production between York Theatre Royal and AJTC Theatre Company. The writer of this story is Mike Kenny. It is aimed at young viewers (5+) and their families.

When the audience sat down, two actors came to talk to everyone about the houses they could see on stage. This got everyone thinking about who might live there, and what type of personalities they had.

The opening of the play was good. The two Bin Men, Don and Sam, explained that they have been Bin Men for most of their life. The music built up the tension for the audience and the sound effects were really effective.

The music flowed very well in the play. The timing was excellent. I enjoyed the fact that Sam (one of the Bin Men) acted out three other roles at the same time. This was also not confusing as he did very good impressions of the other characters.

The lighting was brilliant, when the actors were telling the story the lighting matched their speech, for example when they were talking about how Bin Men don't like it when it rains, the lighting was dark and moody, and when they talked about the sunshine the lighting was bright and cheery.

Overall, I think Bin Men is a great play that the whole family will enjoy. The message of the play was how important it is to recycle and the play made was a good way to educate young people.

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