Review: Beachy Head (National Tour)

Beachy HeadIn death are we someone’s brother/sister/lover or just a body? What happens in the moment from jumping to the fatal landing when you step over the edge? These are the questions that swirl around Analogue’s sophisticated yet makeshift Beachy Head, a theatrical autopsy on suicide.

We watch as two documentary film makers battle with questions of responsibility in the face of a Machiavellian artistic opportunity; a wife grieves for her husband, who in death has become a stranger; a doctor clinically explains the practicalities of finding out why an organism ‘shuts down’.

Analogue have created fragmentary moments of beauty in the midst of this somewhat ragged exploration. A phone conversation with the Samaritans is powerful in its simplicity. The acknowledgment of an artists’ culpability within the representation of such raw subject matter is communicated poignantly through the brash documentary film makers. Sarah Belcher turns in an intelligent performance as the doctor whose statistics on death deliver a strong emotional punch and Katie Lightfoot is thick with emotion as the widow tripping between coping and a pain so piercing it threatens to derail her.

A wealth of technical and theatrical trickery (projections, live video streaming, tightly choreographed scene changes) is at play here giving Beachy Head an intriguingly textured feel. In the middle of this patchwork a story is sewn loosely together, but the space between each seam is too clear. We are unsure if it is the brain or the mind we are supposed to be examining; unsure as to whether we are being shown a ‘play’ or an abstract expression of loss. As such the mines of potential underpinning this work never quite explode as one hopes they will.

Written for

Tour dates here


The PULSE Festival: Ipswich

The PULSE Festival is 10 this year and from the promising programme it’s boasting it seems to only be improving with age.  Peppered around the city in a variety of venues from pubs and hotels to studio theatres and town halls, performances in all shapes and forms are popping up in front of an eclectic Ipswich audience.  It is an audience that is encouragingly full of not only theatre fans, but families too and even, whisper it with me now, some curious locals. 

Festival Director, Steve Freeman wisely opens with shows from local practitioners and companies as well as international artists.  Over the years he has successfully steered PULSE as a festival which pays homage to its roots whilst placing itself firmly both on the national and international stage. It is also a place of discovery; strong ties to the excellent Escalator East programme facilitating that scratch performances get to sit alongside more established pieces.  Known hits such as Ontroerend Goed’s Internal and Dafydd James and Ben Lewis’ gorgeously surreal My Name Is Sue mingle comfortably with rehearsed readings from playwrights Jack Thorne, Tena Stivicic and local boy Andrew Burton.   Meanwhile companies Tin Horse Theatre and Analogue are creating new immersive experiences for us to dip our toes into, Leo Kay and Ross Sutherland are at the forefront of a wave of spoken word performances and 6.0’s poignant and inventive show How Heap And Pebble Took On The World is just one of a cavalcade of whimsical, devised pieces.  Oh and there’s work from Transport, Hydrocracker, Pilot Theatre, Tangram Theatre Company, Fanshen, Paines Plough, Nabokov, Young Vic, Theatre Ad Infinitum and You Need Me. So quite a lot then.

Continue reading