Valentine's Day theatre double bill at South Hill Park

Published: 8 Feb 2013 06:300 comments

Love is in the air at South Hill Park, but it's not your traditional Valentine's fare of chocolates and flowers. Instead, a double bill of theatre with songs, both pieces written by Alexander Wright and praised at the Edinburgh Fringe, is being staged - with not a cuddly teddy or wilting bouquet is sight.

Music men: Jim Harbourne and Ryland Teifi in rehearsals for Beulah.

Beulah, produced by Flanagan Collective and based on the writings of William Blake, focuses on the relationship of a couple, told in a two-hander through story, songs, puppetry and projections, with the actors playing multiple instruments throughout.

In the tale, Liam is born in a Leap Year on February 29, meaning he ages more slowly than his soulmate, Lyca. When Lyca dies, the only place the couple can meet is the in-between dreamworld of Beulah, where they can see into both the afterlife and the living world.

"I think a ghost love story is a good way to describe it," explained director Tom Bellerby. "It's a musical in the sense that it has songs but it's not a traditional musical in terms of people might think, of people bursting into song. The songs add to the beauty and the poetry of the piece rather than moving the narrative forward.

"It's about the subjective nature of time and the way we measure the world, that although there's this thing called time, sometimes it feels different; we can have quick hours and slow hours and maybe 'time' is not the best way to measure our world.

"My job as director is to create a world onstage that feels as magical and as lyrical as the piece merits, making sure it does not become sickly sweet. It's one of the most remarkable pieces I have worked on. It conveys that enduring sense that comes with love - despite the fact that Lyca has gone, Liam feels this enormous connection to her for the rest of his life.

"It would make a brilliant first date. If you want to impress people, take them to see this show."

The second piece, boutique musical Some Small Love Story, is a tale more grounded in the present world, but this contemporary musical about the diverging lives of two couples has been known to move audiences to tears.

Director Noreen Kershaw explained: "It's a musical with two interweaving stories and four characters - it's quite unusual for a musical, and the music is absolutely beautiful.

"It's a simple story - you cannot over-complicate it - and it's haunting. I did not know the first time how moved people would be, and they really are. You get used to the piece and then when you get it out there it seems to reach everybody - everyone has that story; they have had that relationship or seen one."

Beulah and Some Small Love Story are at South Hill Park from Thursday to Saturday, February 14-16, at 8pm, with tickets priced at £12, with three course pre-show meals available for £36 per couple. Book online at www.southhillpark.org.uk or call 01344 484123.

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