• Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

Heads Up

ByGilbert Dowding

Aug 20, 2016

Much of the excitement for this play, stems from the return to the Fringe of Kieran Hurley. After his award-winning examination of rave culture (Beats), this Fringe debut takes on contemporary society- examined through the prism of an impending apocalyptic event. Over the course of an hour we are whisked through the concurrent lives of four protagonists in an unnamed, yet familiar city. Thanks to the magnetic storytelling ability of Hurley we are wholly transported into this world. With a sparse set, and subtle lighting cues, Hurley wastes no time in beginning his story intended, he says, to remind us of ourselves in some way. We don’t recognise many of the more distinguished parts of ourselves, though, in this tale of the more venal aspects society.

Jumping from character to character Hurley quickly builds a sense of each character with subtle voice changes and smartly written internal monologues. However, that these characters so readily spring into the imagination of the audience is in part because these creations feel like reprisals of characters that we have seen elsewhere. A braying, cocaine-addled celeb and a sinister banker questioning their profession feature in an engrossing story that draws on too many tropes to feel as fresh as it intends. In other threads we meet a depressed, jittery cafe assistant and a schoolgirl who has fallen victim of a sexting mishap. These are certainly compelling figures who are made eerily believable by Hurley’s frenetic storytelling style. Musical cues combine with a pacy script to ratchet up the intensity, but at this point it can feel as though this journey is one that we have been on before.

Living, as we do, in the political end-times, it may be this that makes the theme of apocalypse feel vaguely familiar. However when when we come to the apocalyptic denouement, its insertion into the story feels less like a satirical thud and more like a plot device engineered to tie the slightly disparate strands together. The metaphorical heft is dulled by its necessity here at the apex of a frantic performance. Although the characters have nuance and depth in the hands of the talented Hurley, empathising is hard in the light of the chaotic and contrived feeling ending.

In one of the show’s best moments, one character declares that empathy can go fuck itself. This show seeks to show that amongst the many shades of person that makes up society there’s something to empathise with in everyone. Despite the show’s startling skill and the immediacy of the storytelling on show here, the show could have been more daring with its component parts. Regardless, whatever Hurley is involved with continues to be a compelling watch and has very much established himself as a talent here.


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