Beachy Head ***1/2

Someone dies every half-second, and every 75 minutes someone kills themselves.

Beachy Head begins with an interview where this statistic, and other facts, is divulged.  It is followed by a man’s climb up the titular cliff, who then throws himself over the edge.  The play then investigates the effects that the suicide has on two parties: the victim’s wife, Amy, and a couple of filmmakers who by pure chance manage to capture the jump on film.  Both are on a quest for understanding: Amy wants answers, the filmmakers want a story.

Due to its subject matter, Beachy Head makes for occasionally grim and upsetting theatre, but it is told with such artistic flair and has such a high concept that it isn’t until its final moments where the dread of the subject matter really takes hold.

Directors Liam Jarvis and Hannah Barker have managed to create a production that is fully confident in its visual outlook.  The production uses stylised movement, sound and lighting effects, film-making techniques and the creation of haunting images (sometimes literally) to convey its story.  And in style, it is a triumph.

However, it manages to be a bit vacant when it comes to the humane centre of each character.  The only character we really feel something for is Amy, but that’s based more on sympathy for her position.  We never really get to know her.  And the two filmmakers fair worse, with cameraman Matt only caring about film aesthetic and director Joe more concerned with shooting an interesting film than getting to the heart of truth, as he claims he’s after.  We also meet a pathologist who has potential of being a great character but is never really fleshed out.  Matt, the suicide victim, is also on stage, but more as an image than as a full character.

Beachy Head is a very good production about a very grim subject.  The directional choices make it easier to stomach, but fully-formed characters have been trumped over style, and it still makes for harsh viewing.

Playing at the Pleasance Dome from 17.25-18.45 until August 30.

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