Paul T Davies reviews Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet presented as part of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads now streaming on BBC iPlayer.
Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet.
Streaming now on BBC iPlayer.
The reworking and restaging of the original series has thrown new light and angles on some of Bennett’s monologues. Occasionally, the voice and speech patterns of the original performer can still be heard, but, overall, I’ve enjoyed the fresh interpretations, and have discovered new light in the text. Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet begins as a tale of chiropody and ends with hope through an unexpected turn of events. She also looks after her brother, s stroke victim, and although she has carers in to help look after him, she insists on telling him about her day and encouraging him to speak, as prescribed by the consultant. He is not particularly fond of his sister, and Miss Fozzard’s visit to Mr. Dunderdale, her new chiropodist, is an essential outlet for her. Hinting that perhaps he is to become husband material for her, Bennett then twists the tale and Mr. Dunderdale begins to pay Miss Fozzard to trample on his back wearing a variety of shoes, fulfilling his very specific kink.
At first, I felt Maxine Peake was too young for the role, possibly because Patricia Routledge was the original performer, but also because I couldn’t accept her as spinsterhood material. She also, in the first section, employed some facial tics that seemed there to age up the character a little. However, Peake is a canny actress, and as the monologue progresses, Miss Fozzard, through excellent costuming, moves out of frumpiness into confident colour. The facial tics then seem perfectly normal as a reaction to Mr. Dunderdale’s compliments, (and also to side-line her feelings), and she is initially innocent about his requests, and she becomes the talk of the Department store when she goes back to work and discusses what she does as “shiatsu”. She delivers the comedy brilliantly, and as the subplot of Bernard, her brother, develops, she also faces the unenviable dilemma of being trapped by his circumstances. When his carer runs off with his money and Bernard suffers another stroke, it looks like Miss Fozzard is doomed.
However, this is one of the few Talking Heads when the character ends in a better place than they began, and director Sarah Frankcom skilfully leads us to that place, Miss Fozzard decked out in bright clothing for the final scene. She knows what she is doing, and will “walk that plank” when the time comes. But she has found some control and liberation, and as she checks her lipstick, she tells us she knows there is a word for what she is doing, but, like the speech therapy tip for when Bernard can’t find the right word, she skirts around it. It completes the arc of the story really well, and I think Peake takes us down the unexpected route with a mixture of innocence and growing confidence really well, Miss Fozzard also finding a bit of cheekiness.
Other Talking Heads Reviews
Read our review for An Ordinary Woman
Read our review for The Shrine
Read our review for Soldiering On
Read our review for Her Big Chance
Read our review for The Outside Dog
Read our review for Bed Among The Lentils
Read our review for The Hand Of God
Read our review for Playing Sandwiches
Read our review for A Chip In The Sugar