Park Theatre, London – 11 March 2023
They say moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. What happens when you move to your dream beachfront home that is ‘in need of renovation,’ you have a baby on the way, and your relationship is evolving fast? Add a flighty sister, and you’ve got the premise for Jo Harper’s new play The Beach House at the Park Theatre.
Couple Liv (Gemma Lawrence) and Kate (Kathryn Bond) have much to be excited about in this new chapter of their relationship. It’s a shame then that Kate has a strained relationship with her younger sibling Jenny (Gemma Barnett).
The latter’s life lacks the stability of her sister’s. Jenny’s chosen career is as a dancer, which means stints working away at a circus or on a cruise, and her relationship with her boyfriend is in choppy water. Deep down, does Jenny want to be like her stable sister, or does she want what her sister has?
But Liv and Kate’s relationship isn’t as plain sailing as it might initially appear. Kate is in a rush to return to work after their daughter is born, and Liv, when not looking after the baby, takes sanctuary in a glass or two of wine. Jenny and Liv are increasingly pushed together as Kate doubles down on her work and career.
The stage contains little more than a wooden storage chest into which clothing and baby items are regularly tidied and occasionally a box, bucket or pouffe. It focuses attention on the three complex female relationships being played out at the beach house. Harper’s naturalistic script gives you only the interactions inside the home from which to glean what is going on.
It feels a little like a snapshot of a family unit without external influences and any backstory. You have to play psychologist and detective to join the dots on what is driving the behaviour, and at times, it feels like there are more questions than you can draw conclusions for.
The final test for the relationships feels excessively dramatic (and light on explanation) when set against the play’s overall tone. That said, the performances are top-notch providing some subtext to what is said. There is excellent chemistry between Lawrence and Bond, and it’s great to see a play about a gay couple which isn’t about the fact that they are gay.
The Beach House is an enjoyable watch but had holes that needed explaining.
I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
The Beach House, Park Theatre
Written by Jo Harper
Directed by Bethany Pitts
Running time: 75 minutes without an interval
Booking until 11 March; for more information and to book tickets, visit the Park Theatre website.
Trouble in Butetown, Donmar Warehouse ⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 25 March
Linck & Mulhahn, Hampstead Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 4 March
Phaedra, National Theatre ⭐️⭐️ for the staging ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for the play and performances booking until 8 April.
A Streetcar Named Desire, Almeida Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a half, booking until 4 February (This production will transfer to the West End on 20 March).
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