“A beach, a bench and an ice-cream van” are the setting for Tabitha Mortiboy’s sensitive new play. Despite the protestations of the van’s owner, Julie, there is magic in this place – theatrically anyway – with a story of three lonely people making their own kind of family.
Sick of it being just “Me and Mr Whippy”, Julie takes to online dating, reluctant to recognise the attentions of her friend Bernard. In attendance is a young girl called Skye, an “old Romantic”, keen to shake things up but with a secret that haunts her.
Great credit goes to Tessa Peake-Jones for making the heroic Julie so believable. And to Paul Kemp, whose Bernard is a rich, three-dimensional figure. The finest written part is Skye, and Emily Burnett excels here – playful and wounded by turn, she is an intriguing and poetic figure.
Mortiboy’s writing has a lyrical gentility and understated power. This is a sweet love story but contains two scenes of resolution that are forcefully dramatic. Suffice to say the ice creams are sold on suicide hot spot, Beachy Head, and that Julie patrols the cliffs at night helping those in trouble.
This well-written play is served superbly by spot-on direction from Philip Wilson. A thrust stage takes over the space and emphasises Park 90’s intimacy; the sightlines are impressively managed. Wilson understands the tone of the piece, avoiding the bombastic (as the text indicates he should). Mysteries aren’t overstated, the out-of-season seaside feel perfect, and the result enchanting.
Until 16 April 2016
Photo by Scott Rylander