Pleasance Dome
8-30 August (ex. 17, 24), 17.40

Beachy Head 1This play tells the story of two film makers – Joe (Lewis Hetherington) and Matt (Daniel Tobin) who, whilst making a programme on light-houses, accidentally capture the last moments of Stephen (Sam Taylor), a twenty-nine year old with a love of writing.

It explores the effects of suicide upon those touched by it – the loved one (Stephen’s wife, Amy – played by Emma Jowett); Dr Rachel Sampson, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy (Hannah Barker); and Joe and Matt themselves.

Technologically, this production was fantastic. A huge mirror reflected in detail important but small actions – the tentative movement of a hand towards the box in which Stephen’s possessions lay; the symbolic disposal of a dead rose; a tear smudging the words on a ‘With Deepest Sympathy’ card… Similarly, I enjoyed the use of pre-recorded material, which created the impression that what we were seeing was in the process of becoming a documentary. The ideas were innovative – and very useful given the limited view of the stage from some areas of the auditorium. However, I felt that in some ways, the complex and very impressive technical aspects were used to distract attention from the at-times unconvincing dialogue and characterisation.

Considering that this is a play about the tragic death of a young man seen in large part through the eyes of his wife, I found myself surprisingly unmoved. This was partially a clever reflection of the detached manner in which Joe (and, at least to begin with, Matt) sees Stephen’s death; but even Stephen’s final story felt somewhat contrived.  That said, Emma Jowett made a very convincing grieving and confused wife; and Hannah Barker’s pathologist was an interesting mixture, trying very hard to be detached but ironically succeeding less well that the apparently caring Joe.

This production is very unusual and extremely well-devised. Though the script is on occasion somewhat wanting, the acting is of a very high standard, and the use of multi-media is both novel and impressively atmospheric.

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