The Last Resort - Background

 


The Last Resort

Research Ideas 

 

Background 
Music 
Script Development 

 

The Story 
The Cast 
Performance Hints 
Staging Hints 
Resources 
Purchasing 

 

 

The Plays

The Last Resort 
A Mother's Voice 
Bridges 
Jabberwocky 
Children of the Blitz 

Context Notes

My earliest memories of “going to the seaside” are from when I was about four or five years old and my parents took me to Weston-super-Mare on  day trips  with the local working men’s club. I remember the almost ritual excitement of peering at the river Avon in Bristol on the coach journey down and trying to guess whether the sea would be “in” at Weston. Almost invariably by the time we got there it would be “out”.

 

Kids still love Punch and Judy!

Punch and Judy fans!

The sea would be a murky ribbon, a seemingly impossible distance away, on the horizon. So the focus of the day would be the beach, sand castles and donkey rides. As the day wore on we would go for a breezy walk along the pier to reach the electric excitement, buzz and glamour of the fun fair. With parents playing bingo, my brothers would take me around the “Fun House” or for a spine thumping ride on the bumper cars. Sometimes I would pause to squint through the cracks between the floorboards to the frothy waters below in vain pursuit of a dropped coin from the “Penny falls”. It would always be too soon to go home and as a treat we would catch the little motorised train back to the safety of the land. Then, with my head bouncing on the steamed up coach window  as I peered at the magic of the “illuminations”, the day out would draw to a close.

Seaside holidays seemed to feature a lot in my childhood. We went to Weston-super-Mare, Paignton, Great Yarmouth, Bournemouth and many other seaside towns. But wherever we went and however great the distance was between them all the towns and holidays had a reassuring familiarity to them. It was as if the same buildings, attractions, features and facilities had simply been picked up and dropped  at another point on the map. Always different and always the same.

And now, when I take my own children to the seaside, I discover that little has changed! Of course most of these towns really grew up in the Victorian age and share a similar architectural style and basic structure although changes have of course occurred. The essential elements of the seaside experience remain, however, exactly as they always have. There remains the fundamental relationship between the promenade, the beach and the pier. The heart of the town is still that magical area known to all as the “seafront”. The donkey rides, the beach huts, the teeth breaking rock, gaudy beach shops and cafes, the rides, attractions and arcades remain unchanged.

And “the seaside” still has that magnetic attraction that it had for the Victorians. Come a reasonably fine bank holiday and we are away, jumping in our cars and jamming up the roads in a bid to get to the coast to relax and get away from it all.  And everybody goes!   Take a walk along the prom and you will encounter most sections of British society rubbing shoulders with each other - though perhaps a little uneasily.

When people set out to the seaside it is with a sense of anticipation about what the day might have instore. On a busy day there can be thousands of people looking for “something to do”; looking for something out of the ordinary. That feeling of anticipation adds to the sense at times of almost unreality about the seaside towns.  They are places of escape: full of excitement, possibilities, dangers, hopes, dreams and disasters!

The compressed 24 hours of the life of “Ferryton”  on stage focus on the visitors rather than the permanent population. Many of the towns have struggled in recent decades as more and more of us take our annual holidays abroad. I lived for about seven years in Weston-super-Mare. The experience of the resident, however, is very different from the visitor. I’m sure that there were times when several weeks went by without me ever seeing “the seafront”. In fact many of the “touristy” aspects of the town  can become frustrations and annoyances to the residents despite the income the town can generate from them. It was only when I revisited the town for a weekend to take photographs and research parts of the play that I once again saw the town through a visitor’s eyes - and perhaps the child’s eyes of my youth.

The Last Resort doesn’t pretend to show the absolute reality of life in a seaside town. Rather, it tries to be a contemporary seaside postcard - like a distorting glass in a Hall of Mirrors it exaggerates some parts, diminishes others and shows us the familiar in an unfamiliar fashion.  That distorted reflection however should contain grains of truthfulness.

Research Suggestions