When two precocious, self-important students uncover a student-teacher relationship scandal at their private school, they plan to exploit it for their own gain and, in so doing, hope to gain places at Oxbridge by winning a prestigious journalism competition. Class privilege, education, the media, sexuality; none of these issues are spared in this biting, tightly woven dark comedy that shows, with alarming clarity, just how dangerous the competitive culture we live in can be, as the two students care more for their own gain than they do the very life of a fellow student.
Heads paints a frightening, darkly comic picture - it is relevant, clever and poignant, and I would highly recommend it.
Tom Mackie and Ruby Ashbourne-Serkis play these two students, Andrew and Cordelia, with utter conviction and clarity. Starting from the relatable awkward nature of their small talk, their discussion escalates into a contest of one upmanship regarding who won the most votes for the positions they hold as Head Boy and Head Girl. While their awkwardness is funny and almost charming, the competition that emerges between them, and the attitudes they soon start to show, make the tension between them almost palpable. Even at this early stage we see how Cordelia, especially, is willing to put her own happiness before that of others; thinking initially to write a piece on a boy with leukaemia she says flippantly that she is “happy, but not in an insensitive way”. Her attempts to hide her ulterior motives with compassion are wonderfully, scarily shed as the play progresses, and this is brilliantly executed by Ashbourne-Serkis, whose faux-civility and belief in the righteousness of her own actions is contrasted fantastically with the slightly more moral and naive Andrew. When he uncovers the scandal and Cordelia takes the credit, he is initially indignant, but it is not long before his moral compass makes itself known. This aspect of his character is hilariously complimented by his incompetence and incredulity; his exclamation “I know!” being a particular, recurring, highlight.
In stark contrast to Andrew and Cordelia’s callousness, Izzy, played brilliantly by Anoushka Kohli, is not simply their passive victim. She does her best to call them out on what they are doing and defend herself, but her trusting nature proves her undoing as Cordelia interrogates her. Even with Cordelia using such phrases as “help you, or whatever”, Izzy tries to see the best in her and this proves almost fatal, with her actions pushing Cordelia’s callousness to frightening new heights.
At one point Cordelia playfully tells Andrew “Stop it, you’re so bad!”, and we too enjoy their callousness, watching them attempt to destroy Izzy and, in doing so, destroy themselves, laughing in spite of and because of, their actions. Heads paints a frightening, darkly comic picture - it is relevant, clever and poignant, and I would highly recommend it.