Bennett's Talking Heads are easy to like but prove harder to love
PUBLISHED: 16:43 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 17:24 16 August 2010
ALAN Bennett s Talking Heads monologues are guaranteed audience-pleasers whenever they are performed (which is a lot), and last week's staging by Crayford s Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre was no exception, writes Mark Campbell.
ALAN Bennett's Talking Heads monologues are guaranteed audience-pleasers whenever they are performed (which is a lot), and last week's staging by Crayford's Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre was no exception, writes Mark Campbell.
Director John Wilson had chosen two monologues made famous by Julie Walters and Thora Hird, along with a short two-hander originally shown on television in 1978 with Patricia Routledge starring. But with every character sharing the same speech patterns and vocal tics, the evening did end up feeling rather homogeneous.
In A Visit from Miss Prothero, the title character is a starchy, middle-aged gossip, hiding under the guise of self-appointed do-gooder, who calls on a retired employee to keep him up-to-date with developments at his old company.
Maurice Tripp was the avuncular Arthur Dodsworth, a picture of domestic bliss with his carpet slippers and (stuffed) parrot.
As Miss Prothero, Sue Higginson was terrifyingly austere. If there was a softness under that hard exterior, it only revealed itself intermittently.
Her Big Chance described the travails of a supporting artist conned into starring in a soft-porn movie.
Performed with touching naïveté by Helen Gaston, this was the funniest playlet of the night, despite the subject matter being so well-mined.
The final story, and easily the most depressing, was A Cream Cracker Under the Settee, which told the last moments of an OAP, Doris, all alone in her house after suffering a fall.
A neighbour's offer of help is refused because of fears she'll be put into a home. Mary Gibson played Doris, and one almost felt like a voyeur watching her struggling to pull herself across the floor from her chair to the front door.
It was a very strong performance, but spoilt on the night I saw it by distracting noises coming from off-stage, as if scenery were being shifted.
Bennett's cleverness is in making the ordinary sound absurd - be it the delights of Lee-on-Solent or the Kafkaesque workings of a docketing office. But there is always a hint of sadness beneath the smiles, which ultimately makes these vignettes easy to like but harder to love.
The next production at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre is The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon from December 6-13. Tickets: 01322 526390.