Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Peter Hamilton: Bridlington

By | Published on Monday 13 April 2015


This month and into next, north Islington theatre The Rosemary Branch hosts staging of playwright Peter Hamilton’s ‘Bridlington’. Directed by Ken McClymont, the play explores the doomed relationship between two psychiatric in-patients, one an avid fan of ‘Wuthering Heights’, the other obsessed with anti-submarine warfare.

Intrigued by the subject matter being tackled in the piece, I sent some questions over to the playwright, to find out more about the show and what inspired it.

CM: Can you tell us what the play is about? What’s the basic story?
PH: The play is basically about two very damaged people trying to form a relationship. I think that both Bernard and Ruth have failed to navigate the adolescent crisis successfully and have become increasingly maladjusted to the point of mental illness. This damage, to me, is about nature/sexuality being distorted in them by industrialised modern society where rites of passage are not as honoured or ritualised as in aboriginal societies, past and present.

CM: What themes does the play seek to address?
PH: The themes are very much damaged nature, damaged sexuality, stunted creativity. Ruth however, does fight back. Over the years she has come to write poetry, to ‘process’ her negative experience and to reach some kind of wholeness.

CM: What inspired you to write this play? What made you want to broach this kind of topic?
PH: I think all my plays are about a lost oneness with nature, and the subsequent depression and alienation this causes.

CM: What kind of research did you do for this?
PH: I used a lot of my personal experience of being a psychiatric out-patient for a short time forty years ago. This was not a pleasant experience.

CM: The subject matter sounds pretty dark, yet the play is described as humorous. Is it hard to bring a comical voice to something so gritty?
PH: I love dark humour, ‘black’ or grisly comedy. I love that element in Joe Orton’s work, in Jacobean drama, and Shakespeare.

CM: One of the characters in the play has read ‘Wuthering Heights’ 49 times. How many times have you read it? Are you a Bronte fan?
PH: I read ‘Wuthering Heights’ twice whilst writing the play, which was about five years ago now. I think I could be described as a Bronte fan. I certainly am one of ‘Wuthering Heights’ because it too explores themes of nature not being incorporated into life. The house is built in the 16th Century – the Renaissance – when nature and society are harmonic and nature revitalises society. You see this in Shakespeare’s comedies where people go off into the woods and have an experience of renewal. In ‘Wuthering Heights’ the connection between nature and civilised society has been broken, so that nature, in ‘Wuthering Heights’, has become feral and decadent, and life at Thrushcross Grange has become effete and too genteel.

CM: Have you been in close contact with the director during the rehearsal period, or did you hand over the script and step back…?
PH: I tend to hand over to the director and step back.

CM: What’s next for you? Any new projects planned?
PH: I am currently writing yet another play about mental illness.

‘Bridlington’ is on at the Rosemary Branch Theatre until 3 May. See this page here for more info and to book tickets.