Heartbeat The Musical
The Mission Theatre
Saturday May 27th
Heartbeat is one of the few performance pieces I have seen that successfully creates an engaging and moving story whilst still exploring the themes of mental health and suicide in an open and frank manner.
Many performance pieces themed around mental health I have previously seen have the unfortunate effect of being written entirely around the themes at the expense of the story.
Heartbeat offered understandable characters and ideas without feeling like it had simplified anything for the sake of the audience.
Dylan (played by Ryan Mellish) was an identifiable character with a noticeable arc, and he was kept grounded by Emily (played by Aimee Pollock). Both actors played off each other well and quickly moved beyond the basic ‘boy meets girl’ plot, albeit tempered by a bittersweet ending that showed Dylan’s character development without having him suddenly cured of his issues.
Other characters such as those played by Matt Fitzgerald (making a convincing debut) and James Hallifax showed depth outside of simply providing a sounding board for Dylan’s anguish, whether that was through hinting at their own social standing or using their own flaws as a source of self-deprecation.
Neither were Dylan nor Emily simply defined by the fact that they had mental health issues. Indeed, a sizable part of the plot documents Dylan’s growing resolve to not be defined by his disorder.
There was some good use of staging such as the bridge where Dylan considers suicide at the start forming the headpiece to his bed in later scenes.
In terms of criticism, although Heartbeat did work as a musical with several memorable pieces such as the titular song, there were times where the musical numbers felt at odds with the tone of the current scene. However this arguably contributed to showing the characters’ fragmented mental states.
Heartbeat was one of the stronger explorations of mental health that I have seen in a performance piece, and was engaging and genuinely moving.
*** 1/2 Stars