Tag Archives: Gemma Barnett

The Beach House

The Beach House


Park Theatre

THE BEACH HOUSE at the Park Theatre


The Beach House

“It is engaging but teasing. Like an extended trailer. Or rather a pilot for a television drama series”


“I’m not always that easy to love” Kate explains to her girlfriend Liv. She then spends the next ninety minutes proving her point. If it stretches our patience, think what it is like for the three characters in “The Beach House”, whose entangled lives untangle before us over the course of a year or so. A year in which Kate gives birth to their baby daughter (the conception of which remains a mystery) after the couple move into a crumbling cottage by the sea. Kate’s sister, Jenny, comes and goes, upsetting the already precarious balance each time she arrives, and often more so when she leaves.

Many staple themes are touched upon in Jo Harper’s episodic play, that are unveiled in a series of snapshots. Short scenes. Vignettes of a particular moment in time. Like looking through a stranger’s photo album. We see the surface, and then rely on our imaginations to create the back story. Dramatically that is a blessing, but a burden for the performers who have little time to convince us of their complex characterisation. And they don’t always manage this in the time they have. But what they do have, in abundance, is the ability to draw you into the moment and offer more than a hint of what is going on. The cracks appear in the relationships like the leaks that spring in the roof of their rundown home.

Kathryn Bond is the pragmatic, uptight career woman. Bond cleverly plays the bully with a tender lack of self-awareness who can surprisingly elicit sympathy. The issue of post-natal depression is brushed aside and swept under her façade of impatience and overreaction. Apparently Kate has always been the controlling type, according to free spirited, little sister Jenny. Gemma Barnett has many layers through which to make her character’s voice heard but, despite her strong charisma and very watchable presence, the message becomes muffled. Gemma Lawrence’s Liv has the most light and shade. A blocked songwriter, she depends on Kate financially and emotionally. Lawrence convincingly portrays a divided soul. We marvel at her tolerance, and understand and excuse her indiscretions.

There is a lot going on here. All three characters are both culprits and victims. They are grappling with some hefty issues. Coercion, emotional abuse, infidelity, motherhood, sisterhood, abortion, betrayal, desire. It could be a whirlwind, but it is more fragile than that. Delivered gently, the real tensions are like a dark cloud on the horizon, and the performances are treading some way from the precipice.

Set in the round, Bethany Pitts staging is nevertheless starkly honest, reflected in Cara Evans’ sparse setting. The lens focuses on a single trunk centre stage, a Pandora’s Box – on which the lid is never fully lifted. A baby monitor relays some offstage dialogue, but again we expect more of a reveal from this technique. It is engaging but teasing. Like an extended trailer. Or rather a pilot for a television drama series. Now there’s an idea. The performances certainly do leave us wanting to know more. And what happens next. And what happened before. “Always leave them wanting more” they say. A fundamental rule that this company haven’t breached in “The Beach House”.


Reviewed on 20th February 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by David Monteith-Hodge


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Julie Madly Deeply | ★★★★ | December 2021
Another America | ★★★ | April 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | May 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | August 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | October 2022
Pickle | ★★★ | November 2022
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | December 2022
Wickies | ★★★ | December 2022
The Elephant Song | ★★★★ | January 2023
Winner’s Curse | ★★★★★ | February 2023



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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

A Midsummer Nights Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

Reviewed – 25th June 2019



“this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct”


Stepping into a normally locked, private garden a few long days after the Summer Solstice is the perfect entry to Shakespeare’s fantastic interplay of human passions and fairy spells. Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens supplies a cluster of trees and shrubs, to be adorned with bunting and soft lighting and it’s not long before this Shakespeare in the Squares production transports you sufficiently to block out the Notting Hill noise beyond the hedge.

This is Tatty Hennessy’s third production with the company, her last being a 1970s Music Festival setting for As you Like It, an interpretation that played better than most because it followed the cultural, fashion and musical spirit of the work rather than indulging a historical theory. Indeed, the idea of a 1920s Midsummer Night’s Dream initially suggests some convoluted connection being made, between two eras of post-war fallout. Thankfully, it is again the decade’s cultural resonances that are reflected, with costume (Emma Lindsey) and music (Richard Baker) bringing out the play’s themes of attraction, love, magic and bacchanalia with effortless aptness. The aesthetics of burlesque and 1920s Music Hall are a fine fit for the lusts and jealousies of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena, just as suited to the Mechanicals’ ham-fisted style of entertainment and afford the fairy characters a louche, decadent manner whether carelessly casting spells or settling back with popcorn to enjoy the emotional carnage they’ve caused.

The casting for this troupe of players, most of whom must double up as musicians and singers as well as other characters, is a triumph of talent logistics. Paul Giddings trisects Theseus, Oberon and Quince, bringing a quizzical authority that plays differently but superbly to each. Gemma Barnett’s combination of delicacy and bravery works as well to fair Hermia as to the Fairy as to Snug’s hilariously pathetic lion. Yet the versatility comes with no loss of individual stamp as Hannah Sinclair Robinson elevates Helena to a point where she competes for notional title of Comedy Lead with James Tobin’s left eyebrow, which cocks winningly as it brings some drag queen insouciance to Puck.

Ensemble playing is hearty and energetic with the cast’s movement (Yarit Dor) reaching into and around the audience, enhanced by the cast’s ad libs and some witty design details (Emily Stuart with Eleanor Tipler). If sometimes laughs are pursued too ardently it’s an understandable side-effect of the show’s mission to help even a child in the back row enjoy Shakespeare.

Finding new ways to access Shakespeare never grows old and, aside from the Portaloos and sirens, this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by James Miller


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Various London Squares and Gardens until 11th July


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Fool Britannia | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | February 2019
The South Afreakins | ★★★★★ | The Space | February 2019
Tobacco Road | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2019
How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Butterfly Powder: A Very Modern Play | ★★★★ | Rosemary Branch Theatre | April 2019
The Fatal Eggs | ★★★★★ | Barons Court Theatre | April 2019
Tony’s Last Tape | ★★★★ | Omnibus Theatre | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | The Bunker | May 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2019


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