Tuesday, July 5

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet – BBC iPlayer

‘There she is on the tellybox,’ I said. ‘Who?’ asked mother. ‘Maxine Peake,’ I said. ‘Oh,’ says mother. ‘We saw her at the Royal Exchange.’ ‘Did we?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘In Hamlet, A Streetcar Named Desire and Miss Julie.’ ‘Oh yes, I remember, I sat next to that travelling salesman from Didsbury with bad breath.’ ‘Yes, that’s right mother.’

She watched the tellybox and I thought there was no point telling her that they were all directed by Sarah Frankom and when Ms Peake won an award for outstanding contribution to British theatre she put down her success to the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Ms Frankom.

Mother wouldn’t be interested to know that this thing on the tellybox reunited Ms Frankom and Ms Peake. ‘Don’t be so nerdy,` she’d say. ‘Who’ll be interested in that.’

Sadly, the Royal Exchange has announced it is having to make redundancies because of the crisis caused by this virus thingy. I know mother misses her trips to the theatre even if she doesn’t quite understand everything that is going on.

Which is why it is good of the BBC to put these Talking Heads series on. It is as close to theatre as you will get on the tellybox and monologues are ideal for a world of social distancing. I said to mother, ‘You know this was filmed on the set of EastEnders.’ She didn’t respond and took a bite out of her digestive instead.

I thought the monologue was very well done. The story concerns Miss Fozzard who, due to her chiropodist moving to Scarborough, finds a new man to look after her feet. She is looking after her brother who has had a stroke and her life is not exactly pulsing with excitement.

Ms Peake has the ability to throw a glance to her side and your heart can break. Miss Fozzard would not appear to be a tragic character. She is a strong northern woman who gets on with things. Indeed she says, ‘I never thought I had a life.’ As the title suggests she certainly finds her feet.

This was originally produced in 1998 and there has been no effort to update the script. I think this was the right decision. As I said to mother, ‘If they started getting texts or WhatsApp messages the whole tone of the piece would be lost. It has to be sort of old fashioned to work.’ ‘What’s WhatsApp?’ asked mother and I took a slurp out of my tea.

Alan Bennett is a genuine national treasure who understands the English psyche. I remember he once said, ‘When we are trying to be at our best we are at our worst.’ It is that tension between what is said and what is not said that lies beneath the success of this monologue. The audience is there to fill in the gaps.

When it had finished, I said, ‘Did you enjoy that? ` Mother said, ‘Yes,’ before adding after a pause, ‘A similar thing happened to me.’ And she left the room with a smile on her face.

All twelve plays are available to watch now on BBC iPlayer. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p08ftkkx/alan-bennetts-talking-heads

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 3rd July 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★