Beachy Head – Hannah Barker, Lewis Hetherington, Liam Jarvis, Emma Jowett, and Dan Rebellato

beachyhead

Originally produced by Analogue at South Hill Park on July 21, 2010 prior to a 4-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  A revised version was first performed on February 2, 2011 at the Drum Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Original Cast:

Dr. Rachel Sampson                                        Hannah Barker
Stephen 
                                                           Sam Taylor
Amy                                                                    Emma Jowett
Joe                                                                    Lewis Hetherington
Matt                                                                   Dan Tobin

Director:  Liam Jarvis and Hannagh Barker
Original Music:  Simon Slater
Multimedia Design:  Thor Hayton, VI Creative Media
Lighting Design:  Edmund McKay
Sound Design:  Alexander Garfath
Stage Manager:  Simon Wheeler

Publication:  Rebellato, Dan, and Analogue. Beachy Head. Oberon Modern Plays, 2011. Drama Library PR6035.E36 B43 2011

Setting:  Eastbourne District, East Sussex in the South of England; present day.

Language:  Contemporary

AMY

Stephen was very private.

He didn’t share what was in his head.

I think he must have felt very alone.

And maybe on top of that cliff most of all.

It must have felt like the loneliest place on earth.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   A month has passed since Stephen committed suicide by jumping from the Beachy Head cliffs. His widow, Amy, fights to understand why with the help of a hospital pathologist and two documentary filmmakers, Joe and Matt, who, unbeknownst to Amy, Joe and Matt accidentally filmed Stephen as he leapt to his death.  The play examines the effect one person’s act can have on the lives of the people around them as they struggle to understand what might, in the end, be unknowable.  A large part of the plays theatricality comes from multimedia effects that the text tries to describe, but sometimes it’s still difficult to imagine what’s happening on stage.  However, some of the most evocative images come from the text itself devoid of any stagecraft.  In the end, the play feels like an honest exploration of a difficult subject divorced from melodrama or sensationalism.

 

Representative Monologues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.21:  Rachel, a pathologist, explains the statistics of death and suicide in Joe and Matt’s documentary.

RACHEL

People are dying all the time; that’s just how it is. If we were to, what, take on every case, we’d be overwhelmed. Emotionally I mean. Look, the population of the world is let’s say around 6.8 billion.

And around 57 million people die each year. So with 57 million people dying each yar that means someone dies roughly every half a second.

[Lines cut]

One death in around 9000 is a suicide. It’s slightly over that, I forget the exact figure—it’s on the World Health Organisation website. But for the sake of argument let’s say it’s 1 in 9000. So 1 in every 9000 half seconds is a suicide. Which means that, on average, someone will kill themselves in the next hour and a quarter.

p.64:  Rachel is being interviewed for the documentary.

RACHEL

If you find yourself thinking, this is someone’s son, this is someone’s lover, of course you won’t cut them open. You have to appreciate that bodies sometimes  are just bodies. Wherever they were found, whatever they did, whatever their plans and projects, their intimacies, their darkness.  [Lines cut] Sometimes for a second you catch yourself looking at a room of people as populated by a series of organic composites in varying states of decay. But that’s just stuff and we’re not just stuff.

 

Representative Scenes: 

p. 32-34:  Joe and Matt debate whether they should delete the footage of Stephen’s suicide, and in the end, decide not only not to get rid of the footage, but also to make a documentary film about his suicide. Starts with

JOE

                It seems disrespectful somehow.

and ends with

JOE

It could be extraordinary.

p. 60-63:  Joe and Matt argue about when they’re going to tell Amy that they have the footage of Stephen’s jump; Joe is delaying and Matt wants to tell her right away.  Starts with

MATT

Okay, Joe, look at me.

Look at me.

She trusts us.

and ends with

JOE

Are you coming back?

p. 67-70:  Joe tries to get Amy to talk about Stephen’s last moments; Amy finds out about the footage.  Starts with

JOE

                Put yourself there, Amy. Imagine him.

and ends with

JOE

                I’m so sorry.

 

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Bassett, K. (2009, Aug 16). A tale of suicide, sadness and life on the edge. The Independent on Sunday, pp.60.

Brown, A. (2009, Aug 23). The fatal attraction of beachy head. Sunday Times, pp. 13.

Controversial play takes a leap of faith.(2011, Mar 19). Western Mail, pp. 37.

Gardner, L. (2009, Aug 10). Review: Unhappy endings laid bare in a chilling show: Edinburgh theatre: Beachy head pleasance dome, edinburgh 4/5. The Guardian, pp.32.

The last eight seconds of a man’s life is a pivotal moment in play.(2011, Jan 28). The Western Morning News, pp. 21.

McMillan, J. (2009, Aug 15). Reviews: Beachy head/ daniel kitson/ suckerville: Finding closure. The Scotsman, pp.13.

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