REVIEW: BEACONS (Park Theatre)

Park Theatre hosts the world premiere of Beacons written by recent graduate Tabitha Mortiboy and directed by Philip Wilson. First presented as a short play at a new writing festival, Mortiboy was commissioned by Attic Theatre Company to develop the piece into a full length play.

Beacons is the tale of three people brought together by an ice cream van on the cliff top at Beachy Head. Julie sells ice cream, come rain or shine; Bernard is a friend and regular customer. Skye has come to spend the summer at the seaside and gets a job with Julie. All three become firm friends; “we’re a constellation” says Skye. As the summer draws to a close and the weather turns, we begin to wonder what brings these three to the cliff top. Why has Skye not returned home? Why is Julie still single? Why was Bernard homeless?

The cast of three are strong and work well together with a strong script of realistic conversations. Emily Burnett is captivating as Skye, a young girl with the world on her shoulders who can still “get up in the morning and put on a smile”. Tessa Peake-Jones plays Julie with convincing warmth. Paul Kemp is dishevelled Bernard, particularly touching in a scene alone with Skye as they stargaze late at night on the cliff and eat late night sundaes.

Location is important to this play. The set is a grassy clifftop with a bench, ice cream hut, plastic table and chairs with the sky projected on the back wall and the lighthouse lamp shining in the corner. The naturalistic lighting moves the action through the days and the seasons and the sound of the sea is ever present in the background. In this small theatre the audience feel as though we’re sitting on the cliff with Julie, eavesdropping on the conversations.

This is an impressive play from a young writer performed by a strong cast. The emotion builds through ninety minutes and brought me to tears. It’s a tale of friendship, connections, human kindness and how we can all help each other when we know how.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Scott Rylander

Beacons plays at the Park Theatre until 16 April 2016