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Beacons review at Park Theatre, London – ‘warm-hearted’

Emily Burnett and Paul Kemp in Beacons at the Park Theatre, London. Photo: Scott Rylander Emily Burnett and Paul Kemp in Beacons at the Park Theatre, London. Photo: Scott Rylander
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Ice cream van owner Julie moonlights as a clifftop Samaritan at Beachy Head. Helping her pass the time during the off-season are amiable outsiders Skye and Bernard, both quietly damaged in their own ways.

Following a two year development with Attic Theatre, writer Tabitha Mortiboy’s first commission is an uplifting portrayal of human hopefulness.

Emily Burnett is captivating as stray teenager Skye, often seeming even younger than her years with an aching vulnerability barely concealed by effervescent playfulness. Paul Kemp’s formerly-homeless Bernard provides a plain speaking counterpoint to this cotton-candy whimsy, even if his Sheffield drawl and refrain of ‘bloody ‘ell’ sometimes makes him sound like a sitcom character. Holding them all together, Tessa Peake-Jones’ Julie is mild mannered and self-effacing, unaware of the impact of her own everyday heroism.

Director Philip Wilson sets a sedate pace, letting the audience warm to the admittedly charming characters through the unforced back-and-forth of the early scenes. The whole production is infused with a gently-persuasive tenderness which could melt a hard heart like an ice cream in the rain.

Tom Rogers’ design features bold primary colours – vivid green grass, blue skies, and yellow anoraks – while Matt Daw’s lighting is softly spectacular, a natural palette of sunny gold and rich night time indigo striped with slowly tracking torchlight. This interplay of brightness and shadow echoes the play’s strands of humour and melancholy, alternating in a slow but powerful tidal rhythm.

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Understated and warm-hearted piece from a promising new writer