Theatre review: Bridlington at Rosemary Branch

Richard Fish and Julia Tarrnoky

Richard Fish and Julia Tarrnoky - Credit: Archant

The final act of Peter Hamilton’s trilogy is admirably idealistic, but too indulgent, says Greg Wetherall.

Alongside preceding efforts, Basingstoke and Basildon, Peter Hamilton’s latest play, Bridlington, represents a final chapter in an unusual trilogy; one based on British towns starting with the letter ‘B’. Set in a mental institution in York, it is unfortunate that this outing is marred by inconsistency.

We focus on the delicate Wuthering Heights-obsessed Ruth (Julia Tarnoky). Pacing the wards with a dog-eared copy of the Bronte classic in hand, she witters through an infectious logorrhoea; aided by good hearted, yet exaggerated, gesticulation. Like an eccentric hippy, a waspish Cathy, or Miss Haversham without the bitterness, she wears a fusty lacy dress that has all the vitality of a flailing branch isolated on a rain-thrashed moor.

In spite of appearances, she is an impassioned idealist in search of her very own Heathcliff. Recognised as the outstanding member of the institution’s creative workshops, she shatters the fourth wall, offering a tale to the audience – or, ‘dear readers’, as she propounds – that might may well be autobiographical or that of invention.

In her story, we are transposed to Bridlington’s mental institution and her romance with WWII-fixated fellow patient, Bernard (Richard Fish). An unlikely pairing, they are bound by illness and beset by a yearning for love. The anxious steps into physical consummation are pored over with humour. The fallout is traced in detail.

Not as potent in the comedic or dramatic stakes as, say, Michael Wall’s Women Laughing, too many flat notes and indulgent digressions steer Bridlington into an unhappy place. It is as befuddled as the protagonists at its centre. That said, the performances simmer with electricity. The direction, bar a few clumsy scene changes, is effective. It is just that the material is simply too leaden to be elevated. What a pity.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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