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1 Beach Road by Redcape Theatre

1 Beach Road is a new touring production by Turtle Key Arts working with RedCape Theatre - an intriguing drama which explores the metaphorical connection between Alzheimer’s and coastal erosion. Deborah Caulfield reviews a performance at the beginning of its tour at South Street Arts Centre, Reading on 28 February 2012

In 1 Beach Road, RedCape explore the metaphorical connection between Alzheimer’s (dementia) and coastal erosion. As your home collapses into the ever encroaching sea, so memories fade away and the person we once knew disappears.

Jane is on a coastal walk. She stops for tea and meets Victoria. They set up a B&B together. The closer they get to each other, the closer their house gets to the sea. And while this is happening, Jane develops early onset dementia, a condition that affects about 16,000 people each year.

Beautiful, subtle and profoundly moving, 1 Beach Road pulls no punches when it comes to telling the truth. Home, business, relationship, memory; when it's gone, it's gone for ever. Is it easier to cope with when you can see disaster coming towards you? I doubt it.

As the tide takes away your life and belongings, inch by inch, you watch your future slip through your fingers like dry sand; your dreams crumbling beneath your feet.

‘They said we had fifty years!’ cries Victoria. Yet, none of us knows how long we’ve got. We can order our lives in such a fashion that we perform the moves effortlessly and with all the grace in the world. As if.

Yet, what more can we do than take life as it comes and get on with it the best we can? Cheer up, it might never happen. Is this not as good a philosophy for life as another?

Like the synchronised swimming scene at the beginning, with RedCape a lot more goes on beneath the surface. For example, researching their subjects and recording real life experiences. They also run singing and song-writing workshops with people who have dementia. Amongst it all, there is a good deal of laughter and smiles.

The play was inspired by the true story of the people of Happisburgh, on the east coast of England, where Beach Road is literally falling into the sea because of erosion. Since 2004, 24 metres of land and 26 homes have vanished because of inadequate sea defences.

We hear more about dementia than we used to, thanks largely to well known figures such as Terry Pratchett and Tony Robinson, both of whom have talked publicly about the sadness and despair that accompanies dementia and too often lies hidden from view. Heartbreaking though it is, we need to know more. Something must be done.

Directed by Sabina Netherclift, with flawless and often balletic performances by Cassie Friend (co-director) and Catherine Dyson, 1 Beach Road will stay in the memory for as long as it’s there.


I Beach Road by Redcape Theatre is touring until the 22 March 2012