Review: Heads or Tails (Living Record)

Skye Hallam’s one-woman show, now streaming as part of the Living Record Festival, focuses on death and the afterlife, but with a chatty, light touch.

Hallam’s character is on stage in a rare visit back to Earth, after a couple of years in heaven. Heads or Tails has an episodic structure, dealing with leaving, moving on, coming back, watching, missing out, and, of course, meeting dead heroes.

I laughed a lot during the piece, which is largely delivered directly to camera: the audience becomes a co-conspirator in this woman’s return back to the place she had left for good. The writing is sharp and sardonic, warmly delivered and wise.

Screencap from Heads or Tails

Often shows dealing with death and loss can be stagnant, sentimental or somewhat maudlin. Not this one. Hallam’s ghost is pragmatic about her end, likening it to the first time you ride a bike, or losing your virginity. Not so bad when it happens.

She may wistfully reflect on the things she can no longer experience: smell, touch, taste. It isn’t her main preoccupation. She’s here to reassure. And gossip, just a little. This ghost is no regretful Marley: she’s had a good, if short, life. Nor is she a mischievous Elvira, causing havoc.

There are moments of fun here, an Alan Rickman tale of Friday tea, an exploration of the flaws of dead artists, God’s pronouns are her and she. There’s a lovely bit about clouds, and dreams. It’s a lively show, anchored by Hallam’s chatty personality and amused gaze.

Screencap from Heads or Tails

I must mention Jai Morjaria’s atmospheric lighting, which breaks up this monologue of anti-morbidity: it gives an ethereal feel to the stage of the Jermyn Street Theatre, where this was filmed (Luke Dale is director of photography, showing a definite flair for engaging with Hallam’s words and ideas).

I found Heads or Tails to be an interesting thesis on the process of death and grief from a perspective we rarely see. An exploration of the universal, something we will all engage with as mourner and participant.

Heads or Tails is currently streaming as part of the Living Record Festival, which closes on 22 February. You can book here.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Heads or Tails.