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Head/Lining by Charlie Heptinstall

I caught this show last year, and it’s a delight to have returned to it – it’s not an easy watch, intensely grappling with some pertinent issues affecting younger people in Britain today. The use of a metronome for some of the more poetic moments brought to mind a childhood memory of my own – a classmate was learning to play the piano, and another, more advanced schoolboy encouraged him to do without the metronome, as he thought there was an overreliance on it. The same could be said for Charlie Heptinstall’s nameless character, who tells his story with such confidence and assertiveness that the tick-tock of the metronome very nearly becomes a distraction.

Head/LiningFlanked by Jordan El-Balawi on guitar, and occasionally on violin, it’s a story that is told at a pace that suits the youthful vibrancy and energy of the character that I might as well call Charlie, for the sake of argument if anything else. “I can see you, you know,” he beams at the audience, having asked a non-rhetorical question and receiving a respectful silence in return (to be fair to fellow patrons, I hadn’t realised the fourth wall had been breached either).

Heptinstall has grown significantly as a performer since last summer: there’s a very natural flow to proceedings and, as has just been noted, the rapport with the audience puts everyone at ease. He’s more assured and comfortable on stage now, with a boldness that matches the seeming fearlessness with which topics such as mental ill health, alcoholism and domestic violence are tackled. Far from being a depressing and dreary story, however, it’s more of a cathartic release.

It also, perhaps surprisingly, manages to put a smile on people’s faces, particularly in a series of exchanges with a counsellor, who is perennially chirpy – sometimes inappropriately so – whatever problems Charlie discusses in their meetings. A large number of characters are voiced by Heptinstall, each distinct and none caricatured. It is a welcome relief, having seen so many one-person shows at the Fringe that feature just their side of a phone conversation, to hear both sides! There’s never a dull moment in this unapologetically thrilling, full-throated and no holds barred rollercoaster ride.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

A profound, thrilling mix of music and storytelling, head/lining is a lyrical dive inside the mind of a working-class man coming to terms with his life so far, from noxious upbringing to alcoholism and homelessness. Finding absolution in words and poetry, writer & performer Charlie Heptinstall’s spoken-word/indie-rock gig confronts an individual’s battle with identity and mental health combined with Britain’s ever-growing prejudicial obsession with class.


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Friday 5th August – Saturday 27th August 2022

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