Bridlington blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, longing and disappointment. It is comical, yet intense and emotionally draining. It discusses the corporate destruction of souls that are one with nature, and the sexual frustrations of all those that live misunderstood.
Ruth, a long-term psychiatric patient obsessed with Wuthering Heights, starts writing a novel and invites the “reader” along her mind’s journey back to times in a ward in the town of Bridlington. Through her therapeutic writing, she explores her ill-fated relationship with fellow patient Bernard, a psychotic fanatic of German World War I submarine warfare.
Bridlington sets the tone with a strong first half, carefully spinning the relationship dynamics and chemistry between its core characters. Albeit suffering from bizarre delusions provoking one cringe-worthy comic relief moment after another, the initial meeting between Bernard and Ruth remains touching. It is oddly heart-warming to see these two broken souls finding each other. The second half of the play somewhat loses structure and lacks a certain closure, but stays interesting. Just as the Director of the ward, the audience develops a “soft spot” for Ruth. Julia Tarnoky evokes a fondness for her manic, broken, obsessive and sometimes childishly cute character. Visually the play is a joy from start to finish: the stage is enclosed by white lines spanning from floor to ceiling, eerily glowing in the dark – the ward’s walls as a metaphor of imprisonment.
Despite all actors’ passionate portrayals of their character’s frustrations, the performance of Steve Hunt is especially enjoyable. He is the calm rock in this colourful and loud mess of psychiatric entanglements. Without ever being over the top, he portrays his character believably and sets a stark contrast to the madness of his patients and the overly sexual sister.
This “unreliable narrator” play is not an easy one to watch; the patients are in the hospital mostly for their weariness of the world, leaving the spectator deeply sad at their fates and the ways of society. Nevertheless it is an experience worth the watch, and even more so because it can be felt how much heart and effort was put into this production.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Photo: Bill Knight
Bridlington is playing at the Rosemary Branch Theatre until 3 May 2015. Click here for tickets