Wednesday, July 6

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: The Hand of God – BBC iPlayer

Television has taken over many walks of life and given them back to us all neatly packaged. Cookery, Sport, Antiques. Indeed, the latter seems to be ever present on our screens fronted by David Dickinson, Paul Martin and that funny Scottish woman with the bob hair style.

I guess those who have always made a living out of these professions have to grin and bear it and hope that one day the producers of Antiques Roadshow will come knocking and ask them to join the exalted realms of telly expert.

All except Celia the talking head in this Alan Bennett look at life. She is proud of the fact that she doesn’t have a television set. Costly decision that.

As always, Alan Bennett, the master of making the mundane interesting, litters his observational writing with small red herrings as to where we will end up. His words serve to both inform and distract us. As I watched this short monologue, my mind was racing to possible denouements one of which transpired, but the art is in getting there.

Kristen Scott Thomas as Celia is always in control of her performance, beautifully nuanced and characterised. Her side swipes at the so called experts and her misguided sense of the importance of her own view of the world are all brilliantly brought to life and are allowed to speak for themselves.

If I have a criticism of the presentation, it is that it sometimes lacked pace and the slow fades and somnambulate music were trite and overdone.  That small observation is to be left at the door of director Jonathan Kent who otherwise allows the performer and writer to shine through.

At thirty minutes, The Hand of God is a perfect pocket of theatre which just happens to be presented on the telly. I do hope Celia gets to see it and I also hope she shifts that table……

All twelve plays are available to watch now on BBC iPlayer. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p08ftkkx/alan-bennetts-talking-heads

Reviewer: Philip Edwards

Reviewed: 5th July 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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