Thursday, 4 February 2021

REVIEW: Heads or Tails for the Living Record Festival Online

Another dip into the wide range of content available on the Living Record Festival until 22nd February took me to Heads or Tails with its tag line “after death, things need not be so bad”. What attracted me to this piece? It could have of course been the 100,000+ deaths from Covid in the UK, or the second anniversary of my own father’s death or even the sad demise of the Covid hero Captain Sir Tom Moore but actually it was the RADA graduate Skye Hallam who created and performs the piece. Having watched many graduation year productions at RADA from 2012-2015 I am always interested in seeing their graduates work, Skye Hallam graduated in 2016.

This 38-minute piece that she has written and performs is in five acts, each approximately eight minutes long and shot in the Jermyn Street Theatre against a blue/grey cloth and simple lighting. It is like watching a podcast from heaven with Steph reflecting on life and death. It explores the idea, so beautifully executed in the new Disney film Soul, that someone gets a chance before passing into heaven permanently to make one final visit to earth to perform a one woman show. The style is played straight to camera with comic asides as used by Miranda in her TV series.

Its packed with cultural references that make it feel interesting and relevant and the sentiments resonate with anyone, maybe all of us at this time, who has reflected on their own life and the death of close relatives. In Act 1 Death becomes us! she tells us God is a woman, who likes to be addressed as She/Her or Helen but quickly gets into a discussion of past cultural figures like Gandhi, Michael Jackson and of course Barry Chuckle. In Act 2 Highway to Heaven! she describes the yellow brick road with Simpson like clouds that greet you after you high five God at the gate and reflects on Argos, Shakespeare, and Harry Potter. In Act 3 God sins too! she reflects on Cilla Black, Trump, Nazi’s, and Brexit although why Cilla deserved to be grouped with these was unclear! In Act 4, Death Actually! she explains a neat witty parody of the film Love Actually where death is all around us and reflects on the wonderful Alan Rickman another RADA graduate who died too young in 2016. In the final Act, Reason to be fearful! she reflects on those who portray heaven as an imagined after life designed to help us cope with impending death and urges us to not waste time on screens, look after the planet and listen to each other. It is thought provoking, intriguing and watchable given extra meaning by the fact that death is really all around us at the moment. 

Skye does a very good job creating the feelings of this character and engaging us a viewer. She covers a lot of ideas in the show although I felt the script could have been edited to tighten up the flow and developed with images & music from her reflections to enhance the presentation. Her movement in the space sitting, standing, lying, and spinning did not make sense and it was not clear whether the occasional out of focus or shaky camera work was deliberate or accidental. These are minor faults which are easily fixed in developing the piece and I can see how this might be developed into a fuller reflection on 2020 and Covid deaths and a genuine Living Record of the time and feelings we are all experiencing. It could have been as uplifting as Soul and as funny as Miranda and with work it can be.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Online until 22nd February | Price of Ticket: £9

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