THE fact that 57 million people die each year - of which one in 9,000 is a suicide - is the starting point for Analogue’s sobering but absorbing and atmospheric Beachy Head.
The follow-up to the company’s compelling examination of the Underground suicide at Mile End, again uses a mix of film and live action, multi-use bits of screen and wood to bring Dan Rebllato, Emma Jowett, Hannah Barker, Liam Jarvis and Lewis Hetherington’s collaboration to the stage.
Stephen (Dan Ford) leaps off Beachy Head in the middle of the night leaving a bemused widow and horrified but fascinated documentary-makers who find themselves witnesses to his last moments.
Telling the tale in a series of snapshots and interviews with all involved, Stephen’s story is unravelled.
Joe (Matt Tait) and Matt (Neal Craig) are making a film about lighthouses. On reviewing the footage from their static camera, they come across Stephen’s leap into the dark and so springs forth an idea for a new documentary. Matt’s obsession with the film waiting to be made outweighs any moral responsibility and honesty while Joe is increasingly concerned with the secret they are keeping.
There is the detached pathologist (Sarah Belcher) who is emphatic that she deals in statistics and science to find the reason the body has stopped functioning rather than why someone’s son, lover or father chose to end their life. She reduces Stephen to a dictated report and a box of belongings, and provides the facts and figures for the unfolding docu-drama.
Widow Amy (Katie Lightfoot) is struggling to understand. She agrees to be filmed in an attempt to come to terms with her loss and piece by piece those last moments are understood.
The use of multimedia is at times effective but at times distracting and disturbs the flow – I found myself noting the lack of synchronisation between actor and film instead of being lost in the moment.
There also seemed to quite a lot of “faffing about”: moving props about on castors – some being brought in from one side of the stage to be placed on the far edge and often the rumble drowned out the voiceovers.
And I have to question the need for a board being flapped to create the impression of wind on the cliff – particularly when the actor in the draught has short immovable hair – which attracts the attention away from the poignant moment.
Interesting ideas, great observation, tremendous character portrayal but clumsy at times.