by Alan Bennett.
Theatre Royal Theatre Square NG1 5ND T0 5 September 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu 2pm Sat 2.30pm).
Runs: 2hr 25min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0115 989 5555 .
Review: Alan Geary 1 September.
Commonplace streets shown to be places of heroism, comedy and tragedy.
Alan Bennet’s work has sometimes been over-rated, but as this production (from Theatre Royal Bath)makes clear, at its best it’s brilliant. Talking Heads is an eighties – not strictly contemporary – classic. With its references to transistors, racial minorities, newly-opened ASDAs, and bewildered unease about cohabiting couples not being married, this is by now a period piece.
All three monologues/one-handers (“monodramas” is a word sometimes used) selected here are done on adaptations of a bare-room set with exaggerated perspective and a visible sky. It’s as if each of the protagonists is in the world but at the same time imprisoned. And the emptiness of the setting forces, and allows, you to concentrate on character – the entire narrative is character-driven.
These are ordinary people, marginalised nevertheless; all of them perplexed by and increasingly estranged from a world changing around them. They are lonely and pathetic; and very funny.
Bennett has an uncanny ear for people’s authentic everyday speech. And every line carries layers of meaning, only imperfectly appreciated by the speaker. There’s skilfully sustained dramatic irony throughout, so that almost all the time the audience knows more than the character.
Karl Theobald, as grown man Graham living with his mum in ‘A Chip in the Sugar’, only arguably, places the wrong emphasis here and there; and Siobhan Redmond, Miss Ruddock in ‘Lady of Letters’, uses over-loud projection at the start. But these are fine performances all round, particularly from Stephanie Cole as Doris in ‘A Cream Cracker Under the Settee’, the final, most moving piece, about a life quietly unfulfilled.
You leave Talking Heads knowing for sure that commonplace streets up and down England are places of heroism, comedy – and profound tragedy.
Miss Ruddock: Siobhan Redmond.
Graham: Karl Theobald.
Doris: Stephanie Cole.
Director: Sarah Esdaile.
Designer: Francis O’Connor.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Mic Pool.
Composer: Simon Slater.