Kieran Hurley works towards an overwhelming state of urgency with the audience in his solo show Heads Up. Delivered with effective use of second-person narration, Heads Up is a story about the end of the world, and we follow the plight of four individuals who are deeply distressed and disconnected with the world around them. Ash, a young girl violated by her friend who sends an intimate photo of her around her school. Abdullah is desperately clinging to his underpaid job at a corporate giant coffee chain, using painkillers and marijuana to numb his bleak experience of life. Famous and narcissistic Leon wants to save the bees, and so the world, but shows little regard for the people around him as he snorts his cocaine. And finally, there is high-earning metropolitan woman Mercy who trades in futures - and ironically is the first to catch on that it is all going to end as she scours the markets.
A clever and insight piece
Hurley sits behind the microphone on a wooden desk which is decked out with lights at all angles, a flickering pillar candle, and two sample pads primed to explode electronic rhythms and eerie sound effects with a touch of Hurley’s finger. Hurley’s shadow stretches up against the back wall ferociously, and his eyes bulge out as he works his way through the show directing his text accusingly with the ‘you are’ narration of his characters. The sounds and beats underscore the text beautifully in the beginning, and we notice slight alteration in Hurley’s voice quality switching between characters.
As the show goes on, the words and stories begin to tangle and the musical support overcomes the text and it descends into chaos. Hurley’s performance is so intense, fuelled by bitterness, that it becomes too much to comprehend what’s actually going on. The narrative becomes blurred in parts as the variation in the spoken words fixes into one fast paced, rhythmic vocal quality and it takes an incredible amount of concentration to follow. Heads Up is obviously a clever and insight piece, but the lack of clear structure, characterisation and gear change had me lost and struggling to keep up. Atmospheric, engaging and anarchic, it’s easy to spot parallels to Christopher Brett-Bailey’s This Is How We Die.
Kieran Hurley's 2016 Fringe First award-winning, total sell-out show returns for a limited run. A city. Just like this. Right now. A teenage girl boils up in rage in a toilet cubicle. A finance worker preaches doom in a busy train station. An absurd coke-addled celebrity races through town on a mission. A paranoid stoner stares blankly at the endless disasters on the TV news. In just one moment, all their worlds will end. Part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017. 'Superb storytelling theatre' **** (Guardian). 'Urgent, compelling, beautiful' **** (Scotsman). 'Excellent, hypnotic, apocalyptic show' **** (Times).