Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads

Husband and wife actors Mark Spalding & Barbara Dryhurst and Victoria Porter (right) star in Talking Heads


Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: London Repertory Players -  Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth.

It is great to see the London Repertory Players back at Bournemouth’s wonderful Shelley Theatre for a fourth summer season. And this year the company, led by artistic director Vernon Thompson, will be performing an expanded programme of five plays throughout August.

First up is Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads featuring three of the famed monologues he originally wrote for TV some 30 years ago.

A Lady of Letters, A Chip in the Sugar and Bed Among the Lentils are beautifully observed pieces which back in the 1980s featured Patricia Routledge, Bennett himself and Maggie Smith respectively. No pressure then.

In fact the so much more than talking heads of the LRP were superb, capturing Bennett’s forensic social observation, masterful turn of phrase and perfectly honed humour to perfection.

In Lady of Letters  Barbra Dryhurst is a lonely spinster waging war with her beloved Platignum fountain pen as she fires off letters challenging what she perceives to be the ills of society beyond her window. When society strikes back she finds a curious form of liberation

A Chip in the Sugar finds Mark Spalding as a socially inept and isolated middle-aged bachelor living with his mother and descending into mental turmoil when ‘mam’ meets an old flame and romance blossoms. All is not what it seems though.

Finally Bed Among the Lentils features Victoria Porter as a vicar’s wife trapped in a world of frustration, church and duty. She seeks escape by hitting the sherry and communion wine and discovers cultural and sexual adventure with trips to the local Asian corner shop.

Making the most of Bennett’s very precisely written scripts cannot be easy but all three actors - familiar faces from previous seasons with London Rep’ Players - set an impressive standard for the coming weeks. The Talking Heads series displays a masterclass in writing for stage and screen. Its characters offer a glimpse of the domestic tragedies often played out unseen behind closed doors.

These mini-dramas need careful handling to convey the nuance of the story. A glance here, a raised eyebrow there or a slight emphasis on a phrase is often all that’s required. Not easy. This production, which presents the successive stories across a three section lateral stage set, gets the tone and delivery absolutely right.

Talking Heads runs at the Shelley until Tuesday 6th August. It is followed from Thursday 8th until Tuesday August by 4,000 Days - a contemporary play by Peter Quilter about a man who wakes from a coma to find that he has forgotten 11 years of his life.

This will be followed on Thursday 15th August until Tuesday 20th August by a production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Francis Durbridge’s House Guest will run from Thursday 22nd August until Tuesday 27th August and the season closes with Janet Green’s Murder Mistaken  which runs from Thursday 29th August unril Tuesday  3rd SeptemberMore info and booking at  www.shelleytheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01202 413600. 

Jeremy Miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Jeremy Miles 2019