Home Theatre, Manchester; Friday 19th May, 2017
Dressed in a smart suit yet with neither shoes nor socks on, Kieran Hurley is the narrator of Heads Up, a dark and uncomfortably sinister hour of preachy storytelling – this is Jackanory thirty years on, all grown up, on drugs, sitting in the dark contemplating what went wrong in life.
It’s the end of the world and Hurley is giving us a heads up. His tone is accusatory and severe, he tells us that we are four different characters, each going about our daily lives. The events leading up to the apocalypse are pretty much just the banal normalities of everyday life, yet Hurley fills the hour by going into the most extreme detail, amplifying the seemingly ordinary, given that these are to be the last moments of existence.
The set is non-existent and therefore static – just Hurley sat at a table preaching into the microphone, with a couple of pads allowing him to introduce sound effects and background music. The lighting is also almost completely static, bar a couple of bright flashes and colour changes. Heads Up is not the greatest visual spectacle; it relies completely on the power of the story being told.
But switching continually between what is effectively four different stories means that the full picture is never properly painted. Whilst some sense of suspense is created, none of the four stories (and hence the total performance) seem to lead anywhere. All the hype surrounding the impending apocalypse just seems to fizzle out to nothing; the end is confusing and disappointingly weak.
Hurley’s artistic endeavours as a vocally agile narrator are evident enough, but sadly the underlying landscape of the story is weak. I don’t see the point of this being in a theatre; it could have just been broadcast on the radio.