Head/Lining at The Pleasance (London)

Head/Lining at The Pleasance. Danny Kaan photography. Charlie Heptinstall and Jordan El-Balawi pictured.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Written and performed by Charlie Heptinstall, Head/Lining is a powerful and engaging exploration of what it means to grow up a working class white boy to an alcoholic, bigotted and violent father, and a depressed and needy mother. This lyrical play examines the impact of these childhood influences, the path that sends him on, and the strength it takes to deviate and get the help needed to change direction. Just because you have an ASBO doesn’t mean you can’t be a poet.

Fusing music, poetry and storytelling, Heptinstall lifts what could be a dark and unpalatable piece of theatre into something that kept me transfixed throughout. He is unafraid to talk about violence, bigotry, homelessness, alcoholism, suicidal thoughts and broader mental health issues. This is a redemptive show about the search for connection, be it with yourself or other people. It is full of humour and heart, with a profound honesty that make it compellingly intimate.

Direct by Matt Strachan, there is a clarity to the physicality of each scene that helps the audience navigate the patchwork of storytelling forms and intertwined timelines. Despite the complexity of the narrative approach, I always knew where we were within the world of the story.

Jordan El-Balawi joins Heptinstall on stage as a musician, and also as a reassuringly supportive presence. Even as the story takes dark turns, El-Balawi is there to listen and reach out. He is also unafraid to rock out, to music composed by Dan Follows. Billed as indie rock, there is a glorious absence of bullshit to the pieces that arguably takes us into punk territory.

Head/lining runs at The Pleasance until 30th July, with shows at both 6.30pm and 8.40pm. I highly recommend seeing it if you can, as Heptinstall captivates as both a writer and a performer.

You can find out more, or book tickets, here: https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/headlining-0#overview

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