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On Your Head Be It: A Cautionary Tale at the Old Red Lion Theatre

On Your Head Be It: A Cautionary TaleThe thing about seeing a production presented as part of the London Horror Festival is that there are certain connotations associated with the umbrella title. On Your Head Be It: A Cautionary Tale falls under ‘horror’, but mostly – if not entirely – in its narrative rather than any special effects or atmospheric music that sets the mood for something spooky. Stuart (Joseph Cullen) and Eleanor (Sasha Wilson) have checked into something akin to the Hotel California in The Eagles’ 1970s song of the same name: “You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave.” But why might that be?

Eleanor’s response to Stuart saying they are not in prison has a quick retort. “But I am in Wales,” she laments. But the dialogue gets considerably darker, such that the various voiceover announcements over the intercom from hotel management, themselves rather death-like in content though with a cheery tone, seemed comparatively mild. I had a (broadly) similar experience to the one Eleanor encountered with a taxi driver. It was one of those rare occasions in London when snow falls in sufficient quantities to settle, and when I was giving directions to the driver as we neared my front door, he didn’t want to go down the untreated side road. But I was paying to be taken home, I insisted. He relented.

Eleanor, however, found herself walking further than intended after Gareth, her taxi driver, decided he wouldn’t go any further either, because (inclement weather or not, and the suggestion from the storyline was that it was not) he didn’t want to be late to meet his significant other. This sets off a furious response, and when Eleanor crosses paths again with Gareth (the play is set in a remote village where one is bound to meet the same people repeatedly even during a short stay), the killer instinct kicks in, in more ways than one.

But as they are all in a public place, getting their own back on Gareth it is far from straightforward – after all, it is likely there are going to be witnesses. As someone doesn’t normally respond well to productions whose proverbial journey is not in chronological order, I found the ‘flashback’ technique used here very effective, not least because the production has a way of clearly informing the audience when a flashback is about to occur.

While the dialogue is amusing enough, some of it doesn’t add as much to the plot as it could. The character development of this seemingly unlikely couple is there, however, in the conversations in the flashbacks. The production moves along fairly briskly, and manages to include, in one act, several rounds of ‘Never Have I Ever…’ and a ‘TED Talk’ – to say anything regarding what it was about would be giving too much away. (And no, it wasn’t a TED Talk about death.)

I’m still not entirely sure what audiences are supposed to take away from what transpires. Perhaps there’s something in there about living every day as well as one can, because one never knows when one’s time will be up. Or perhaps we really should trust no-one. Either way, there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments to enjoy in an unexpectedly bittersweet show.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

All happy couples have a hobby, For Eleanor and Stuart, it’s homicide. But Eleanor’s been getting a bit carried away recently, and Stuart thinks they need some r&r. Cue rural Wales, surely nobody can get on their nerves here? Hilarity and horror inevitably ensue to overwhelm their romantic getaway when a local cabbie makes a wrong move, and Eleanor knows exactly how to take her revenge; and no, it isn’t a strongly worded email to the cab company. “On Your Head Be It: A Cautionary Tale” is a black comedy that delves into the depraved psyches of this young couple as their battle for dominance sees their relationship disintegrate.

All he wanted was a quiet weekend away, but someone forgot to pack the bin bags…
At The Old Red Lion Theatre, EC1V 4NJ – October 16th, 17th and 27th at 9:30pm


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