Theatre Review by Ann France

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Photo credit: Ian Tilton

Talking Heads – Bolton Octagon
Saturday, 24 June 2017

The theatre group visited Bolton Octagon to see three monologues from Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, fondly remembered by many who first saw them on television in the late 1980s.

The first, A Chip in the Sugar, featured middle-aged Graham, whose life becomes complicated when his mother, with whom he still lives, reunites with an old flame. This monologue was my favourite of the three. Graham’s mannerisms, his hurt and jealousy, his relationship with his mother and an undercurrent of mental health issues, were all superbly portrayed by actor David Birrell.

The second monologue was A Lady of Letters. Irene is a one woman neighbourhood watch, until her habit of writing letters gets out of hand and eventually lands her in prison. Ironically, Irene is happier in prison and the before and after Irene were both captured excellently by actress Cathy Tyson.

The final monologue was A Cream Cracker under the Settee. Widow Doris, obsessive about tidiness and maintaining her independence, has a fall and discovers the offending cream cracker – in actress Sue Wallace’s case a gluten-free cracker, a snippet of information we gathered on the excellent Octagon backstage tour we went on a couple of weeks later. This monologue, made famous by Thora Hird, was in equally capable hands with actress Sue Wallace, whose quiet performance was very powerful.

This was Bennett at his best. Poignant, observant, witty. Bittersweet tales of ordinary lives.

Ann France

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