Review: FreeRange Productions' Bea at South StreetBy Caroline Cook
January 04, 2013
FreeRange Productions presents Bea
South Street Arts Centre, Reading
Euthanasia - the act of deliberately ending a person's life to relieve suffering - is not an easy subject matter for any company to tackle let alone one whose director and cast are barely out of their teens.
But FreeRange is not a company to shy away from the controversial.
Having already proved its capacity to tackle the tough stuff with previous shows like Closer, FreeRange has stepped up to the challenge again with Mick Gordon's Bea.
Set in Bea's bedroom - a wonderfully crafted set with paper lights, trinkets and boy band posters on the wall - the play follows Bea (Isabel Brodie), who never leaves her bed, trapped by an unnamed illness.
With the help of her new care assistant Ray (James Blake-Butler), Bea writes a letter to her mother (Imogen Eley), explaining simply that she wants to end her life.
And so follows an intimate, at times gut-wrenching play, which sways between Bea's full-of-life personality, and her desire to end the pain.
Brodie captures the dual sides to Bea wonderfully, jumping on the bed with girlish abandon, and then writhing in pain when she suffers a fit.
It doesn't make for easy watching but FreeRange go full pelt at the tough stuff, making sure they give the subject matter the attention it deserves.
There are hints that what we are seeing is Bea's thoughts as she would want to express them if she were able, rather than what she is actually saying, but it is not explored sufficiently enough for the idea to have a huge impact.
It also casts some uneasiness over Bea's relationship with her care-giver Ray - if she is not actually vocalising her thoughts the relationship we see is entirely different.
For the most part Ray acts as a foil to Bea's condition, and Blake-Butler brings a subtle humour which prompted splutters of laughter from the small audience.
A scene where Ray acts out a scene from Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, was a particular gem.
Bea certainly adds some more thought to the euthanasia debate and FreeRange should be commended for tackling such an emotive issue with a maturity beyond its years.