7 April 2016

Beacons at Park Theatre was a very human play that touched several emotions deeply

For the second week in a row I found myself at the Park Theatre for a Thursday matinee performance as the time and location fitted in well with what was going on elsewhere at the time and the shows there have always been good or better.

Another attraction was that one of the three actors was Paul Kemp who I had seen several times at the Orange Tree.

I was also interested in seeing another play about Beachy Head having seen and enjoyed a play of the same name some years previously.

As in the previous week I booked online just before setting off to the theatre and my unreserved seat cost me a friendly £18 for a show scheduled to run for an unbroken 1 hour 25 minutes.

I walked to the Park Theatre from Kings Place, as usual, taking an indirect route as my mood fancied, as usual, arriving in decent time for a coffee prior to going into the theatre. We were in the smaller space, Park90, and I joined the queue that was starting to form on the first floor. By the time that we were let in the queue stretched along the first floor corridor and down the stairs to the ground floor. Once again I found that older people, and I must include myself in that, like to queue to get the best seats whereas younger people are more content to leave everything to the final moment.

The stage was set as a cliff-top with a ledge in one corner. We were advised by the helpful staff to sit near that corner and so I did. I was in early enough to get a seat right in the front row and I chose my place just off the corner. The picture below shows the set and the excellent view that I had of it.

Beacons introduced us to three characters who were all,in some way
connected to Beachy Head and, through that, to each other. A middle-aged woman (Julie) sold ice creams but was losing out to a posher rival nearby. A middle-aged man (Bernard) came there for somewhere to be and to see the middle-aged woman. A young woman (Skye) was drawn to the place where somebody she knew had killed themselves.

They passed the time by talking to each other and through this we gradually learned more about them and they learned more about each other revealing more and deeper connections between them. The story developed through these revealed connections and there were a couple of surprises along the way.

On the way there were three rich and essentially decent characters trying to get along with each other and it was a real pleasure to watch them do so. The three actors were all excellent. I had gone to see Paul Kemp (Bernard) and I loved him as a somewhat shy and bumbling ex-alcoholic. Emily Burnett (Skye) moved convincingly between bubbly young woman and somebody with sad memories to content with. Tessa Peake-Jones (Julie) was the rock that they both relied on but with needs of her own. I cared about all three of them.

I must confess at this point that I spent ages looking at Tessa Peake-Jones trying to work out what play I had seen her in because she looked familiar only for Google to remind me afterwards that she had been Raquel in Only Fools and Horses for many years!

Beacons was a very human play with (basically) a happy ending though there never are endings in real life and there were several less happy parts along the way. It left me in a positive mood which has to be a good thing.

The afternoon ended well when I managed to grab a few words with Paul Kemp afterwards to tell him how much I enjoyed his performance in this and the other plays that I had seen him in.


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