Reviews BrightonNationalReviews Published 5 April 2017

Review: Heads Up at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton

Marlborough Theatre ⋄ April 4 2017

Seeking a friend for the end of the world: Tracey Sinclair reviews Kieran Hurley’s apocalyptic one-man show.

Tracey Sinclair
Heads Up, UK tour. Photo: Niall Walker

Heads Up, UK tour. Photo: Niall Walker

Productions about the end of the world seem so in vogue – wonder why that could be – that, like a character from Buffy, lately I have found myself wondering what the plural of apocalypse is. But despite covering what is now familiar ground, Kieran Hurley’s solo show Heads Up is a standout: an urgent, biting but humane take on our final days, woven together from the rich details of everyday life.

Four key narratives intertwine – a tween girl humiliated by some unwise sexting; a stoner shop assistant on his last warning; a coked-up, self-obsessed singer; and a futures trader who has read the signs, and realises that her job is about to become obsolete. Between these main characters, other people’s lives are glimpsed, audience and performer included, all of us hurtling towards the unstoppable end.

Barefoot behind a desk from which he deftly conjures the light and sound cues to switch between stories, Hurley is a mesmerising performer, moving fluidly between beautifully realised personae, and the piece knits seamlessly together to form a hypnotic and compelling whole. From the teenage Ash’s shame and anger at her failed romance (delivered with a side of youthful scorn for the teachers who would preach about ‘inappropriate’ texts), to trader Mercy’s observation that she is surrounded by white guys who pride themselves on ‘going the extra mile’ without realising life has handed them everything without them ever having to try, Hurley’s work is precisely observed, scalpel sharp, and often very funny (though audiences in his home town of Glasgow are likely to be baffled by how scandalously hilarious English people seem to find the word ‘cunt’).

But there’s also a real heart to the piece. Mercy, initially so proud of her hard-won position in the gleaming towers of the rabid capitalism that has precipitated such global decline and that cannibalises catastrophe for profit, is driven to warn others of her premonition, that they might, if not save themselves, at least find some meaning at the end; redemption, of a kind, is offered even to the unworthy, even if all that gets you is a hand to hold as the skies fall in. None of us can escape the coming storm but connection – real, human connection to another, shedding our own stories for a moment, to step inside theirs – offers salvation of a sort.

Heads Up is on a UK tour until 10th June 2017. For more details, click here.


Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

Review: Heads Up at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton Show Info

Written by Kieran Hurley

Original Music Michael John McCarthy



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