Beachy Head @ Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh

cast list
Hannah Barker, Sam Taylor, Emma Jowett, Lewis Hetherington, Daniel Tobin

directed by
Liam Jarvis and Hannah Barker
A pair of young film makers discover that they have inadvertently filmed a man’s suicide.

Reviewing some of their footage they see a man take of his boots, fling them aside, and hurl himself from Beachy Head. Shocked and also fascinated (shall we watch it again? one asks) they decide to track down the man’s young wife and make a film about her response to his death.

Stephen was twenty nine and an aspiring writer of children’s books holding down a mundane job. He was married to Amy and they lived, simply but seemingly contentedly in Brighton.
He gave little outward sign of depression or despair and Amy is left feeling baffled and betrayed by the actions of a man she realises she did not know as well as she thought.

Analogue’s new devised piece combines video and other multimedia techniques with a fairly dramatically straightforward account of a young man’s decision to end his life and the repercussions of this act. The production contains several visually striking moments, but the simplest sequences are often the strongest; a brief flashback about the mending of a light fitting is moving in its ordinariness.

Dan Rebellato, Emma Jowett and Lewis Hetherington’s script is considered and intelligent but seems to shy away from truly tapping into the complex knot of emotions, the despair and utter sense of hopelessness, which might drive a young married man to hurl himself from the top of a cliff onto the rocks below. The key narrative hook of the piece ends up shifting away from Stehen’s act towards how and when the filmmakers, Joe and Matt, will let Amy know that this footage of her husband’s death exists and how they are planning on using it.

There is some wry humour in the way the way the Joe and Matt fuss about lighting and the lack of a sufficiently hospital-y atmosphere when they are interviewing Dr Sampson, a pathologist whose job it is to autopsy many of those who choose to die at Beachy Head, about the nature of her work. There are also some very well judged moments: Stephen’s long drawn out final phone call to the Samaritans is particularly well handled, but other things smack of manipulation, especially a video sequence that shows Amy’s tears falling on the cards of condolence that people have sent her, causing the ink to bleed.

The characters remain rather opaque, though Emma Jowett is suitably raw as Amy, and the most memorable sections end up being those when Dr Sampson, (a measured performance by Hannah Barker, who also co-directs) talks calmly and professionally about the physical process of dying, the way life leaves the body and the frequency of self-inflicted deaths.

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