Q&A - The Beach House
Next week, The Beach House comes to Park Theatre. We speak to writer Jo Harper about bringing the premiere of her Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize-shortlisted play to the stage to shine a light on stories of motherhood, sisterhood and the endurance of love.
Can you tell us about The Beach House?
It’s a three hander, a drama and a love triangle with three complex female protagonists. Liv and Kate move to the seaside to have their first child and find an old house near the beach that offers so much promise. Biological mum Kate plans to go back to work and leave the baby at home with songwriter Liv. But Liv struggles with her new identity as full time mum, she can’t write and becomes distracted by Kate’s younger sister Jenny who keeps turning. We follow the women as they respond to motherhood, sibling rivalry and a big betrayal.
How did you get involved in the project/ what drew you to it?
Coming out of lockdown I changed my writing focus and decided that I wanted to actively pursue stories about women and develop female characters. I’d written a draft of this play already, it’s always felt evocative to me and it seemed like the right time to develop an intimate three hander about three female protagonists. I posted online that I was going to be writing female focused stories and immediately a man DM’ed me with advice about how to write female characters. That made me laugh a lot and sharpen my focus. I don’t want to exclude anyone but I want to write characters that feel personal and important to me.
The characters in the play are fictional but I think they all have an element of me in them, I love all of them at different times, they’re complicated and they mess up like we all do.
The fourth character in the play is the Beach House and that’s how I started writing this play. I’m drawn to the sea and I wanted to explore the freedom of the sea along with the trapped feeling I experienced as a new parent when I couldn’t leave the house.
The play is inspired by my own experience of new motherhood, by women I know and by my ongoing fascination with female sexuality and relationships. At the heart of the play is an intense and rivalrous relationship between two sisters. A relationship I know from my own experience. I wanted to write a play about love between women that is challenging and complicated and enduring.
What do you want audiences to take away from the show?
I want to transport our audience to an old beach house by the sea and create a drama that is entertaining and thought provoking. I want them to be swept up into a world with challenging characters. I want the audience to be left with unanswered questions about siblings and family and female relationships. I want my characters to linger with my audience, to show these women in a multi dimensional way, and through a lens that constantly shifts. It’s not really anyone’s fault, we’re all different and we rub and aggravate each other because of our difference but I want the audience to be left with the hope that there’s always a chance to try again. I also want it to be a universal love story and be accessible and affect everyone.
Can you describe the show in 3 words Cliff-edge tender drama
What’s next for you?
I’m developing a TV drama script about a tiger mum who will go to any lengths to save her family. It’s fun to find out what those lengths actually are. It has alot of 40+ female characters who I can’t wait to explore and it’s a tense drama with a sense of humour so I’ll be re-writing that next.
I love collaborating and we also have a new production company - Kate Productions with producer Grace Nelder, producer Lucas A.Ferrara and casting director Tom Wright which is really exciting.
The Beach House runs from 15th February to 11th March. For more information, visit Park Theatre’s website.