Written by Skye Hallam
If you had forty minutes to impart your wisdom to those left behind, what would you say? Would you express your deep-seated regrets and securities in the hope of pushing someone into experiencing more, or would you warn of the impending dangers of disregarding the life you have and the value it screams?
Staged as a monologue, Heads or Tails from writer and performer Skye Hallam produces a compact but insightfully wistful show which pushes audiences to enjoy themselves and to, perhaps, take a little more interest and attention with our lives while we still have them – just as Steph discovers all too late.
In between tea with Alan Rickman, and karaoke sessions with musical legends Michael Jackson and Barry Chuckle, Steph returns from the afterlife for her allotted slot with a bittersweet monologue where she addresses the audience, but underneath is having a much-needed conversation with herself. But there’s a danger in reminiscing on what was once thought to be inconsequential, as Steph elaborates on the supposed ease and prosperities of Heaven, memories of the life lost flood back.
It goes beyond the little things; the idea of never becoming a mother, coming to the realisation of those living a life without her. Indeed, as the living continues, will they recognise their departed loved ones upon ‘crossing over, and what if they’ve moved on? But on the plus side, who cares what you look like? Certainly not Helen, Steph’s affection name for the Lord. Tackling ideas of capitalised beauty and body dysmorphia, Heads or Tails sheaths its satirical jokes and sharpens its wits on tragic and all too familiar concepts.
And yet, the script remains in touch with undeniable humour. Hallam ties the comedy directly into the writing without stretching either descriptive or emotional dialogue out too heavily. It makes for a compact journey. And the level of appreciation and control can only come from the performance of someone who comprehends an intense monologue at a personal level. Hallam succeeds in imbuing a sense of self throughout the production, her relaxed approach encourages audiences to hang on to her every word, laugh at the well-written humour and open up at the warnings and advice offered.
Now, it’s inescapable to recognise the influential pastiches of the works of Miranda Hart and Pheobe Waller-Bridge, as Heads or Tails borrows the fourth wall breaks, dry wit, tonal changes and hypothetical questions from both Miranda and Fleabag. At first, it seems ireful, but with time the production finds autonomy within its own skin. Bombastically catapulting towards a climax, the clock begins to race as Steph’s time speaking with the mortal realm is short. Poignant, Heads or Tails descends into the realms of loneliness and death, Hallam’s performance reaches a sublime concoction on nihilistic and erratic, becoming sadistically enthralling.
Intimidating concepts and discussions become palatable and accessible, lampooning Trump, ‘cancel culture’ and ‘woke lefties’ with equal measure across the board. Heads or Tails reminds audiences that regardless of the flip of the coin you’ve been handed – we’re all just on the other side of what we want, and that really, we ought to appreciate what we have. Skye Hallam’s performance may cherrypick from familiar creators, but her performance is wholly her own, controlled, calm and with just enough twisted whimsy to conjure the additional required elements.
Heads or Tails can be streamed directly from Brighton Fringe