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


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
                                                           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


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.


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.


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


                It seems dis­re­spect­ful somehow.

and ends with


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


Okay, Joe, look at me.

Look at me.

She trusts us.

and ends with


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


                Put your­self there, Amy. Imag­ine him.

and ends with


                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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