BEACONS, Park Theatre - Review

It's not very often that one falls in love in characters in a play from the off and feel like you've known them forever, but in Tabitha Mortiboy's Beacons, that is certainly the case. Set in Beachy Head on the coast of Eastbourne, Beacons focuses on three individuals whose lives intersect on many levels, some of which aren't initially self-evident.

Julie (Tessa Peake-Jones) runs an ice cream van on a clifftop as the summer season draws to an end. A nearby competitor, however makes it hard for her to earn a living, irking her no end. Keeping her company is Skye (Emily Burnett) a teenager has been spending the summer in town, plus Bernard (Paul Kemp), a man who once was homeless and of a similar age to Julie. Their friendship is interesting anyway, but how they met in the first place is one of the many surprises in the third act that propels the story forward.

Beacons does takes its time and it could be argued that nothing much 'happens' initially in the play. However asides from reflecting the 'reality' of a town off-season, the minutiae of 'small-talk' is how we build such a deep impression of the characters with the organic layers of information.

We see in Julie a woman who is 'strong' and 'together' for everyone, but secretly yearns for company where she doesn't have to be like this, hence her interest in online dating. Bernard would love to officially be her 'significant other', but lacks the confidence to tell her what he really feels and wonders what Julie is looking for. Meanwhile, Skye doesn't want Julie and Bernard to grow apart as they are the closest thing to a family she has...

Mortiboy's two-year development of Beacons with Attic Theatre Company has paid dividends with a show that is both intimate and celebrates the quiet acts of kindness in everyday relationships. The casting is spot on, with Burnett's Skye possessing charm and youthful energy, while Peak-Jones and Kemp as her 'surrogate' parents have an understated warmth tempered by harsh experiences.

I left the theatre feeling strangely buoyant, believing in the innate goodness of people and the interconnectivity of everyone. And if you know me at all, that is an all-too-rare feeling and something to be cherished.

© Michael Davis 2016

Beacons runs at Park Theatre, London, N4 until 16 April 2016.


Read Amie Taylor's interview with BEACONS playwright Tabitha Mortiboy here:


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