Skye Hallam’s thoughtful and warm play exploring life, death and everything in between, manages to cover a lot of topics in 40 minutes.
Filmed at the Jermyn Street Theatre, this funny, poignant but insightful play by Skye Hallam explores fears, life and death in a way that is surprisingly reassuring.
At the centre of this one woman show, Steph is an actress who has died but has been brought back to Earth to deliver a few lessons for the living in between sharing her experiences of death and what she is missing most about life.
Throughout the 40 minutes, this engaging show is filled with pop culture references that are used effectively to illustrate a point. For example she talks about how we idolise the likes of Michael Jackson (the pre-1993 Michael Jackson I should point out), Whitney Houston and Elvis Presley yet we judge them on their faults long after their death – why can’t we let it go particularly as we can’t hold them to account? This sets up the rest of the show nicely as it is all about being able to let go of our egos and fears and trying to make the most of what we have before its too late.
The whole concept behind the show is quirky but it works well, particularly when dealing with sensitive topics such as death, forcing us to confront our own ideas on the afterlife and fears. It has all be written in a confidential way that makes it feel intimate – such as when she describes dying, which is one of the most reflective and reassuring moments in the show. Added to this the way in which she side-glances at the camera to make us feel as though we are actually there is a lovely touch.
Some may find the way in which the conversation flits from one subject to the next a bit disorientating in places, yet somehow Hallam knows exactly to tie in different subjects to make one point effect. The whole show plays out as a self-help session, with pieces of advice including to stop fixating on what went right and what has gone wrong and “just be”. But Hallam does acknowledge that this can be easier said and done given every day pressures that surround the living every day – which is one of the positives that she has found from being in the afterlife and not having to worry about anything.
Beneath the humour though, there are moments of poignancy and regret. For example the smells she misses, not being able to see her mum and never getting to experience being pregnant. By adding this touch sentimentality, it keeps the show feeling grounded and real – this is someone who has had her life snatched away from her and we should learn from her.
It doesn’t proclaim to have all of the answers surrounding life and death, but Heads Or Tails does manage to present these topics with light touch that is touching as much as it is humorous.
By Emma Clarendon
Heads or Tails is available to watch via the Living Record Festival until the 22nd February.