The topic of death is so incredibly subjective, with reactions ranging from resignation and acceptance to angst and fearfulness. I, myself, am horrendously scared of dying, mainly because I realise the fragility of life and the finality of its ending. Nobody really knows what comes after life and there is no chance of us coming back for a single second.
a dynamic performance from Hallam and a script with true heart
Skye Hallam has created a one-woman show in which her character, 25-year old Steph, is given 40 minutes back on earth (the Jermyn Street Theatre in London to be precise) to “impart the wisdom of the dead on to us”. Throughout the five different sections of the show, we learn some of the details of what is to come: the fact that God isn’t necessarily the Father we all thought He was; which of our favourite departed celebrities are up to no good; and what exactly happens when you reach heaven for the first time. It’s a brilliantly creative way to tackle such a heavy subject. With section headings including Death Becomes Us! and Death Actually!, there is an unexpected and somewhat spirited feel that runs through this piece, even if there is a tinge of sadness every time God’s bold voiceover returns to remind us how much longer Steph has left on earth.
Hallam is an absolute joy as Steph. As our guide to life after death, she helps turn what could be a depressing 40 minutes into pure entertainment. She doesn’t go into too much detail about her character’s personal life on earth, but more the concepts of her human life and how they relate to the afterlife. Topics we’ve always wanted to ask about like cancer, Donald Trump and the Nazis are maybe not as simple as we’d thought. Why did God put them on earth? Not even Steph can give us a proper answer to that one. This is something I quite liked about the piece. Having a character who doesn’t have all the answers to all the big questions, ironically, gives her more credibility. It would be too fraudulent if Steph had all the answers or at least a reason for everything and I’m glad the writing steered clear of that.
As this is a pre-recorded, online event, the monologue is delivered to camera, making the show an especially intimate and personal experience for the viewer – just like death, itself. Throughout the piece, there are several cutaways to a side camera for a quick gag or an extra piece of cheeky information, reminiscent of the television adaptation of Fleabag. For me this didn’t quite work. After a while, I found myself wondering why a side camera was necessary at all. This “one-to-one” experience was so personal anyway, why would there need to be an even more personal way for Steph to connect with the viewer?
By the end of Heads or Tails, I was moved to tears. This show packed an emotional punch which I was still feeling for a good 30 minutes after the credits had rolled, due to a dynamic performance from Hallam and a script with true heart. The genius of Heads or Tails is its focus on appreciating what we have and of being kind to one another because, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters in life. And the afterlife too.