Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: THE BEACH HOUSE, Park Theatre

Review: THE BEACH HOUSE, Park Theatre

Shortlisted for Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, Jo Harper's play is a gentle exploration of female relationships, motherhood, and the inescapable tragedy of feeling.

Review: THE BEACH HOUSE, Park Theatre With a baby on the way, Kate and Liv buy a house near the sea to raise a family. After Lola's traumatic birth, Kate struggles to connect with her daughter, Liv is sucked into motherhood, and Kate's sister Jenny becomes a regular visitor at their home. While Jenny tries to break away from her overbearing sibling, the couple is growing apart.

Jo Harper's The Beach House is a play that explores the space between the parallel lines of infidelity and loyalty, lust and apathy, resentment and forgiveness. In a landscape dominated by a dearth of lesbian stories, it's refreshing to find one that doesn't deal with sexuality at all, but focuses on the negotiations of parenthood and the complications of personal connections. Bethany Pitts toys with the visual and figurative distance between her cast in a natural, effortless 360° direction.

Multi-instrumentalist Holly Khan's gorgeous soundscape is central and crucial to the storytelling. From the smooth jazz of a stolen kiss to the soft violins and haunting vocals of Liv's tormented creative process, Khan's tunes are elegant in their eclecticism. Her sound design is equally impressive. A leak in the roof drops into a bucket becoming the symbolic tell-tale heart of Liv and Kate's relationship, becoming louder as their issues evolve.

The physical side of the production is sophisticated in its details. Kate's initial effusions towards Liv become progressively colder, freezing against Liv and Jenny's secret, crackling chemistry. Kathryn Bond is a commanding presence as the tired, overwhelmed, unsuspecting mother and partner. Her pragmatism seeps into every aspect of her life and is direct opposition to both her partner and her sister's attitudes.

Gemma Barnett's Jenny is her polar opposite, her hair as unruly as her spirit. Where Kate is established in her job and seems to have her life together, she bounces from job to job, insecure about her position in relation to Kate and intimidated by her achievements. They share a strained connection, both envious of the other on some level and unafraid to weaponise their feelings. Liv sits halfway between them. Gemma Lawrence introduces a songwriter who's struggling to work. She uses her newborn as an excuse to avoid her creativity, balancing her identity on the edge of the blade of motherhood.

While accomplished in her writing, Harper has a tendency to assign traditional gender roles to non-traditional characters, which is mildly annoying but realistic in the bigger picture. Kate is the breadwinner while Liv suddenly becomes a stay-at-home mum, neglecting her own career. Then, when things get rough between them, she is semi-forced to find employment to make up for her apparent shortcomings, as if childcare wasn't a full-time commitment and Kate hadn't escaped back to work immediately after giving birth.

Laura Howard floods Cara Evans' set with golden dapples of light and blue hues. The actors stare past the audience, implying big windows and an airy seaside atmosphere on a hardwood platform with a wooden chest in the middle. Minimal props avoid any accidental distractions, putting the narrative - visually and metaphorically - in the round. It's an exquisitely crafted production.

Harper views motherhood from three different angles. Jenny's begrudging renunciation, Liv's embracing of it, and Kate's ultimately complicated tie to it. It's a gentle exploration of female relationships and the inescapable tragedy of feeling.

The Beach House runs at the Park Theatre until 11 March.

Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge

Alexandra Burke Helps Launch This Years Love Your Local Theatre Campaign By The National L Photo
On World Theatre Day, The National Lottery’s Love Your Local Theatre campaign returns for a second year running, made possible through a partnership with Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, the UK's leading theatre membership organisations committed to making theatre accessible to everyone. 

Leading Theatre Producers Will Illuminate Your Curiosity With A Spotlight On in Honour ff  Photo
In celebration of World Theatre Day 2023, leading West End and Broadway theatre producers have announced that in April 2023 they will be illuminating your curiosity with A Spotlight On.

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen Release The Orchestra App for iPhone Photo
Wise Music Group, Classical Apps, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the Philharmonia Orchestra have announced the release of The Orchestra for iPhone. The critically acclaimed and award-winning iPad app was originally launched in 2012, and the new launch will bring The Orchestra to a wider audience by making it compatible with iPhone as well as iPad.

Union Theatre Hosts Fundraising Gala at The Other Palace Photo
Celebrate 25 years of The Union Theatre at The Other Palace tonight at 7:30pm and help raise vital funds to prevent the theatre from closing.

From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

Review: MARJORIE PRIME, Menier Chocolate FactoryReview: MARJORIE PRIME, Menier Chocolate Factory
March 26, 2023

Jordan Harrison’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist is a reflection on mortality that doesn’t dare to go into the depths of the matter. It ends up being rather stagnant philosophically and anthropologically, but Dominic Dromgoole’s latest production is a delicate take. Running at 85 minutes on paper but around 70 in reality, the piece’s greatly sophisticated performances and sleek look save it from its redundant nature.

Review: WASTED, Lyric HammersmithReview: WASTED, Lyric Hammersmith
March 25, 2023

Running at around 50 minutes, it’s snappy and positively Gen-Z in pace and subject. Fernandes crafts a script that wanders from deliciously colloquial to slightly expository, but remains solid throughout.

Review: CONTEMPT, VAULT FestivalReview: CONTEMPT, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

While the writing is gripping and Gabrielle Nellis-Pain’s performance is excellent, there’s something missing. Catherine’s colleagues are ancient ghosts through the hallowed corridors as she puts on a sleazy, raspy voice to portray them against her well-spoken main character.

March 19, 2023

You are going to die. It’s a certainty, but it’s also the title of the latest play by This is Not Culturally Significant writer Adam Scott-Rowley. Performed entirely naked, You Are Going To Die is a show about everything and nothing. You can read as much or as little as you wish in it. What does it deal with? We’d love to know - we came out of it with more questions than answers. It feels like a social experiment or an impenetrable piece of performance art. It might just be simply throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks.

Review: FREAK OUT!, VAULT FestivalReview: FREAK OUT!, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

Coin Toss Collective are an exceptionally creative young company. Freak Out! highlights a problem that wouldn’t cross the mind of the average British person who lives in the inland. They deliver an amusing, chaotic farewell to East Anglia. Who would’ve thought that a show about coastal erosion would be so cool!