Way Back

Beachy Head in East Sussex has the tallest chalk sea cliffs in Britain, offering some fabulous views along the south east coast and across the English Channel. This is not however the main reason for which Beachy Head is now famed; sadly, the cliffs have become the third most popular suicide spot in the world. Which, as Carol - a member of Beachy Head's ever-present Chaplaincy team - admits, is terrible: only the third?

On the Tuesday night the story takes place, Carol has her work cut out, with not one but two potential 'Jumpers' on her watch. There's Miles, a former chef at the nearby restaurant, who is suicidally depressed and guilt-ridden after the death of his partner in a car crash. In contrast, there's Randy, the self-obsessed, Jagger-styled lead singer of never-quite-made-it rock band The Mammary Glands, angry at his fall from fame and initially outraged by the lack of any press in the vicinity. Carol is faced with the hard choice of who she should try to help first, which is by no means as obvious as it might appear.

Way Back is a humorous, dramatic three-hander which constantly switches point of view between the internal monologues of the characters, each enjoying their moment in their own spotlight - a simple enough theatrical choice which nevertheless underlines how we're all the main character in the stories of our lives. On occasions, writer Daniel Henry Kaes makes gold from this, contrasting what the characters feel about a particular situation to either humorous or more serious effect.

The performers are well cast: Aynsleigh Turner brings an earnest fragility as Carol, while Matt Lim has a bottled physical energy as Miles. Stephen Bermingham particularly impresses, not least because he successfully masters the the delicate balancing act required to show the immature person hiding behind the paper-thin rock-star cliche.

It's no spoiler to point out that neither Miles nor Randy jump off Beachy Head; the crux of the play is how this one night in Carol's and each others' company changes their lives in other ways; there are other kinds of 'leaps' we can make in life. If the conclusion veers towards the trite - about the importance of us being there for somebody - it's not entirely without conviction, and an able cast certainly carry it off with some elan.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

The Blurb

Welcome to Beachy Head, East Sussex, third most popular suicide spot in the world. Dreadful, isn't it? Only the third. Way Back is a daring new comedy, sensitively exploring taboo themes of suicide and existential crisis.