Theatre Review: Beachy Head
Analogue theatre company’s harrowing production BEACHY HEAD explores the tragic reality of suicide through innovative multi-media staging and extensive real-life research.
THE ECHOING and ominous sound of waves crashing on cliffs sets the hypnotic tone for this drama exploring suicide.
Beachy Head was inspired by Britain’s most renowned suicide spot and the drama was extensively researched by Analogue theatre company working with the Royal College of Pathologists, healthcare academics and the Samaritans.
It sets out to explore the ripple effect of Stephen’s sudden decision to end his life, as his young wife is filmed by documentary makers who inadvertently capture his plummet from the cliff-top.
Analogue’s cross-art style combines projected film, interview clips, a rotating set and live performance, and creates some magical visual tricks, while cleverly dealing with tricky plot issues - such as Stephen’s jump from Beachy Head.
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The script is packed with information that hammers home the stark reality of suicide, a testament to the rigorous research. But the dialogue is flawed with superficial jokes in the documentary making sub-plot, which weaken the cold rational impact of other sections of the play. It also caves too easily to the temptation to explain Stephen’s jump, a truth that in reality can sadly never be known.
But the multi-media ambition of the staging is sweeping and points to a young company breaking visual boundaries in a similar way to trailblazing companies such as Complicite. Katie Lightfoot’s performance as Stephen’s wife Amy was also outstanding, the emotional anchor of the piece.
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Beachy Head’s harrowing impact lies in the terrible realisation that Stephen’s own dark walk to the cliff-side is in the end inevitable. It is desperately sad, but what else could it be.
* Beachy Head was performed at Jacksons Lane Arts Centre in Archway Road, Highgate. The production is touring across the UK until March 24.