Pros: This had a promising concept and plenty of laugh out loud moments.
Cons: A confusing storyline, with some lacklustre performances.
Performed at the wonderfully cosy Rosemary Branch Theatre, Bridlington tells the troubled tale of Ruth, a psychiatric in-patient with an obsessive enthusiasm for Wuthering Heights. Recounting her own novel to us, we learn of her tender, yet sadly doomed relationship with her very own Heathcliff, Bernard. She writes poetry while he loves WW1 submarine warfare. But, despite their differences, their endearing relationship takes centre stage in this touching depiction of life as a mentally ill person. Although the script has masses of potential as a concept, Bridlington feels as though it’s still in its fledgling stage. Something that sadly fell a little short, but could be great with a bit of fine tuning.
The story itself erred on the side of confusing. The distinction between fantasy and reality was barely recognisable and it was a little too muddled to be entirely enjoyable. Had the script taken the slightly uncomfortable feeling Ruth had of being lost and run with it, it would have been a much more poignant tale. However, the injection of many a comical moment, although garnering plenty of laughs from the audience, took away from the potency of the story somewhat.
Adding to the confusion were the many allusions to Wuthering Heights. Having read the novel, I loved the abundance of references to Cathy and Nellie Dean. If you’re not familiar, I would definitely recommend brushing up on the famous characters of Bronte’s work beforehand, you might just be a bit lost otherwise.
Acting wise, the whole thing unfortunately felt a little so-so. Julia Tarnoky’s slightly manic yet sweet depiction of central character, Ruth, was admirable. Her Geordie accent wasn’t quite as polished as it could have been, so ended up being rather distracting. The sole stand-out performance for me was that of Richard Fish’s Bernard. His comic timing was spot on and his maniacal, uninhibited laughter had the audience chuckling at the most uncomfortable moments. The line between deranged and humorous in his character was most definitely blurred, whilst the distinction between his naivety and his dangerous nature is one that I found to be quite disturbing. Again, I only wish that we’d have seen more of this unnerving side, and less of the comedic distractions throughout the piece.
What wasn’t overcomplicated was the staging. Gary Anderson’s set design, though simple, was really effective. I particularly loved the design of the walls. A series of white fabric strips allowed the characters to easily move on and off stage. This gave a sense of fluidity that perfectly complemented the tone of a performance in which we slid so quickly in and out of reality.
Although the premise of the play was an extremely interesting one, I felt as though, in practice, it was trying to do too much, and as a result, didn’t really do much of anything. The entertainment factor petered out during the second act, and with no strong message to take away, it didn’t really pack a punch in the way that it had the potential to. In my eyes, a shorter, more concise portrayal would have been far more effective.
Author: Peter Hamilton
Director: Ken McClymont
Booking until: 3 May 2015
Box office: 0207 704 6665
Booking link: https://shop.ticketscript.com/channel/web2/get-dates/rid/2AEKW2G4/eid/245429/language/en