Heads Up – Review

I can close my eyes and still hear the baseline thumping, the monotonous sounds that accompany the spoken words, unrelenting, one after the other, delivered with ferocious ferocity at a speed that makes my brain struggle to keep up. It is incessant, persistent, unremitting, unyielding, remorseless, an undercurrent of words, sounds and light that is continually pushing me deeper under water, and as I come up for air, I am dragged back down, drowning in the myriad that is this bewildering concoction from Kieran Hurley. Heads Up.

The premise of the show is bleak. The set is bleak. The lighting is bleak. The sounds. Bleak. The stories that Hurley hurls at us are bleak. The outcome is bleak. It’s bleak.

It’s the end of the world. I told you it was bleak. Hurley uses this narrative to weave the stories of four differing characters, and how the mundanity of their lives are put into perspective at its moment of destruction.

The style and vibe of this is stripped to its ambient core. There is only Hurley on stage. The set is sparse. One desk which Hurley sits behind. There’s a solitary candle. This is important. On the desk is a sound effects machine. Controlled by Hurley we are subjected to numerous sounds. Shining on Hurley is a singular spotlight. Then there are his words. Sentences. Propelled. Like bullets from a semi auto submachine gun.

Is it any wonder my head hurts?

This is theatre not for the faint hearted. Hurley is certainly impressive in his performance. They way he poetically delivers his lines. They way he uses light and sound to add to the gravitas of his words. Combining all three, Hurley, achieves a rare kind of balance to how he wishes to convey these stories.

Yet, its unrelenting pace is what finally pushes this production over the edge. The four characters, and their stories, which Hurley trajects at an intense velocity, are lost in the overall scheme of things. His series of monologues remind me of the “Choose Life” trailer for Trainspotting. You know the one. The baseline to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life pounding loudly, before Ewan McGregor delivers John Hodge’s perfectly deadbeat view of ‘life’ as the music and the words reach a deafening crescendo.

That is Kieran Hurley’s Heads Up in a nutshell. The Choose Life trailer on repeat.

In trying to depict the humdrum happenings of four people over the course of an hour, seesawing your way through their tales, one after the other, picking up different strands to the story you are trying to tell at different points makes it difficult to really care about the characters.

So much so that I don’t. I am not given the time to really care or identify with them. For as soon as my brain can comprehend the events that are unfolding and assimilate the information Hurley is conveying, he has moved on, to another character.

But, maybe, the characters are not worth caring about. (They are mundane after all.) Maybe, I should be looking at Hurley’s role in this. What is his role in this? Is he a metaphor for God. And why is he barefooted. Is it significant? And then there’s that candle.

Of course there is no let up in Hurley’s performance for us to comprehend any deeper meaning to Heads Up and that is ultimately its undoing, whilst Hurley is impressive and innovative in how he interacts with his audience, the overall message becomes just one big deafening crescendo.

Verdict: An impressive, innovative solo performance from Kieran Hurley, that delivers an uncompromising, incessant and bewildering view of the end of the world.

What: Heads Up by Kieran Hurley
Where: HOME Manchester
When: 19th May 2017