This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com
“Fresh to you daily” boasts the sign on Julie’s ice cream van as it stands proudly at the top of Beachy Head, looking out to a stormy sea and a flashing lighthouse. The van is the centre point of Tabitha Mortiboy’s new one-act play in which three lonely and very different characters come together to form a makeshift family. Julie (Tessa Peake-Jones) is middle-aged and facing challenges to her business from reduced visitor numbers, an aggressive competitor and coastal erosion; her part-time occupation is talking down from the cliffs potential jumpers. Bernard (Paul Kemp) is of similar age and smitten with Julie, but lacking in the confidence needed to tell her. Skye (Emily Burnett) is new to the area, a bouncy teenager living in a youth hostel with a fondness for gazing across the water and dreaming of becoming a lighthouse keeper. Tom Rogers’ set design places the van on a miniature white cliff, a large patch of lush green grass contrasting with a pale blue late Summer sky. The setting reminds us of half forgotten seaside holidays where brief glimpses of the sun would alternate with long spells sheltering under an umbrella and Mortiboys captures the peculiarly English quaintness of it all in her writing. Much of the early part of the play resembles a coastal version of Last of the Summer Wine. The first hour meanders rather aimlessly, sustained only by quietly amusing and occasionally lyrical dialogue, but with little plot. Bernard moves into a new flat, Skye gets a job in a dog grooming parlour and Julie dabbles in internet dating, but nothing else happens and director Philip Wilson finds little to light up his production. Then Mortiboys makes surprise revelations and what follows is a dramatic and moving final third that is written and played quite beautifully. Beacons is defiantly old-fashioned, but warm-heartedness runs through it like the lettering through a stick of seaside rock, making it a welcome and timely antidote to news of cruel events in the world outside the theatre.
Performance date: 26 March 2016