Writer: Jo Harper
Director: Bethany Pitts
Character is built on imperfections. Who wants to hang out with someone who is always correct, always does the right thing and has never failed? Cracks and strains build layers into a persona, making a person intriguing, interesting and, importantly, relatable. The three women in The Beach House are all fantastic. They’re beautifully created characters with flaws and vulnerabilities who, above all else, feel utterly genuine and totally normal. It’s this quiet realism that proves the most charismatic element in this engaging piece that looks at strong female bonds, their flexibilities and limits.
Liv meets Jenny at a party hosted by Kate, the only person there that either of them knows. There seems to be a bit of a spark between them in that moment of meeting. It’s interrupted, however, by Kate’s arrival and the revelation that she is Liv’s girlfriend and Jenny’s sister. So begins an exploration of trust, longing, duty, the pressures of not only being in a relationship but also those that come from new motherhood and professional burdens. And the magnification effect on those existing issues a run-down beach-side house with a leaky roof can bring to a couple.
It’s all set on a simple wooden platform, designed by Cara Evans, with a wooden chest at its centre. A bucket in the corner catching drips from the ceiling is the only other main prop with clothing and lighting (Laura Howard) being the main methods of changing scene and time.
Stories of infidelity and familial difficulty will frequently have an uncomfortable feeling – a sort of second hand embarrassment when we bear witness to these intimate and traumatic discussions. That feeling is almost totally missing from The Beach House. Harper’s scripting, Bethany Pitt’s direction and the performances from the actors create a mature, open and almost welcoming atmosphere within which to present and work through these topics. We watch these great characters go through painful times with empathy, concern and interest more than anything else.
This openness to explore the characters’ difficult decisions and interactions is what really sets it apart from other plays dealing with infidelity. Its focus on three fully evolved female characters with all the richness and complexity that exists in these intense types of relationships (romantic, familial, parental), and the exploration of themes more commonly found in stories with men, only adds to its attraction as a piece of art.
Runs until 11 March 2023