Friday, December 2

REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: A Chip in the Sugar – BBC iPlayer
REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: A Chip in the Sugar – BBC iPlayer

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads made the monologue popular for writers and actors alike, but few manage to capture the magic of this wryly amusing series of short tales set in the grim north. A Chip in the Sugar was originally performed by Bennett himself and this new version created as part of a special series in response to the current lockdown is directed by Jeremy Herrin and stars Martin Freeman as Graham. The majority of the monologue is performed in Graham’s extremely tidy, dingy, grey bedroom, with his single bed and walls decorated with numerous chocolate box paintings and floral plates. Graham lives with his mother, and is devoted to her, but is very upset by their recently bumping into her old flame, Mr Turnbull. The realisation that his mother had a life before he and hi...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: Her Big Chance – BBC iPlayer
REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: Her Big Chance – BBC iPlayer

Alan Bennett's original Talking Heads was five filmed monologues shown in 1988. At the time they were received with great acclaim and featured prominent and respected actors of the era. A second series was produced in 1998 with five new monologues and was again much lauded. ‘I shot a man last week’ is an unusual beginning for an Alan Bennett monologue and when we see Jodie Comer delivering this line, we may think we are in for an episode of Killing Eve. However, this is Leslie, an aspiring actress describing her latest assignment. Leslie is relentlessly positivity in spite of regularly being cast in roles of fun-loving girls who are at home on a bar stool and for whom serious roles elude her. Leslie prides herself on her professionalism and we see this in her deportment and clear sp...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: Soldiering On – BBC iPlayer
REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: Soldiering On – BBC iPlayer

Alan Bennett's original Talking Heads was five filmed monologues shown in 1988. At the time they were received with great acclaim and featured prominent and respected actors of the era. A second series was produced in 1998 with five new monologues and was again much lauded. Harriet Walter is faultless in this remake of a classic monologue first filmed with actress Stephanie Cole. Walter’s performance is enough to convince the viewer that the events are happening now. We meet Muriel Carpenter describing the recent funeral of her husband, Ralph. Clearly, the couple were very well to do, living in an expensively furnished, beautiful home. Muriel is impeccably dressed (all tweed and pearls) and Ralph was very senior in Massey Ferguson. She is matter of fact when talking of the demise of...
Woolf Works – The Royal Ballet at Royal Opera House
London

Woolf Works – The Royal Ballet at Royal Opera House

Wayne McGregor’s ballet triptych created in 2015 is inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf and contains an original score by Max Richter – superbly performed by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Koen Kessels – with astounding lighting schemes from Lucy Carter and stunning set designs throughout. Woolf Works recreates the emotions, themes, and fluid style of three of Woolf’s novels beginning with ‘I Now, I Then’ inspired by Mrs Dalloway (1925); then ‘Becomings’ derived from Orlando (1928); concluding with ‘Tuesday’, which draws on The Waves (1931). The three pieces stand alone as distinctly as the works that inspire them although there is a chronology with underlying threads that seamlessly bring them together, most notably the central performance from 52-year old ...
The Grinning Man – Bristol Old Vic
South West

The Grinning Man – Bristol Old Vic

Based on the 1869 novel ‘The Man who Laughs’ by Victor Hugo, ‘The Grinning Man’ is an eerie and sinister tale of a grinning ‘freak’ searching to find ‘the monster in his mind’ and discover the secrets of his past. The musical enjoyed a very successful period at The Trafalgar Studios in London’s West End and is now available for streaming from its performance at The Bristol Old Vic. Set in 19th century London, ‘The Grinning Man’ intertwines terror with dark comedy in order to relay the spine-chilling tale of an abandoned child called Grinpayne (Louis Maskell), desperate to find the secrets of his past and how he gained his ‘grinning’ smile in the first place. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to Dea (Audrey Brisson), a blind girl, also longing for her own discovery. She accompanie...
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Bridge Theatre
London

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Bridge Theatre

Gwendoline Christie (Titania), Oliver Chris (Oberon), David Moorst (Puck) and Hammed Animashaun (Bottom) lead an ensemble cast of actors, acrobats, singers and dancers in The Bridge Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, currently streaming on YouTube as part of the National Theatre's online programme. The production's advertising calls it “Shakespeare’s most famous romantic comedy”. Even in a sentence in which every word is necessary (no one could call it Shakespeare's most famous play, or his most famous romance) it is a bit of an over-statement, not just because of other, possibly more famous ones such as Much Ado About Nothing, but also due to the play itself: the romance is the least interesting thing about it. Even the “comedy” aspect isn't its main feature as, like happens with mo...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: Playing Sandwiches – BBC iPlayer
REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: Playing Sandwiches – BBC iPlayer

Alan Bennett's original Talking Heads was five filmed monologues shown in 1988. At the time they were received with great acclaim and featured prominent and respected actors of the era. A second series was produced in 1998 with five new monologues and was again much lauded. Now in 2020 and filmed during the lockdown adhering to all social distancing measures, the original ten plus two new pieces written by Bennett himself last year have been remade with a new generation of respected actors. Some are better known that others, but all have the experience to make each monologue their own rather than a rehash of the original. Talking Head 5 is Playing Sandwiches. Originally filmed with David Haig in 1998, now it features the wonderful Lucian Msamati as park worker Wilfred Paterson. ...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: An Ordinary Woman – BBC iPlayer
REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: An Ordinary Woman – BBC iPlayer

In 1988 the BBC released the first six short Talking Heads monologue plays written by Alan Bennett. After their first outing on BBC1 they were adapted for radio and in 1991 were broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The second series was released for BBC2 in 1998 so thirty-two years on we will see if they stand the test of time. Sarah Lancashire takes on this disturbing tale which was not part of the original set of plays. Gwen has a daughter Maureen and her 15-year-old son Michael. From the beginning this play is a difficult watch as it focuses on a mother who is obsessed with her son, but not in the molly coddling way mothers can annoy their kids with; she admits that she fancies him! Shocker within the first few minutes sets the tone for the rest of the monologue. She likes to look at her son’s...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: A Lady of Letters – BBC iPlayer
REVIEWS

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: A Lady of Letters – BBC iPlayer

In 1988 the BBC released the first six short Talking Heads monologue plays written by Alan Bennett. After their first outing on BBC1 they were adapted for radio and in 1991 were broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The second series was released for BBC2 in 1998 so thirty-two years on we will see if they stand the test of time. Originally performed by Patricia Routledge, Imelda Staunton has taken up the mantle in this re-make. Produced by Nicholas Hytner and Kevin Loader, the first scene is set in Irene Ruddock’s front room with the quintessentially British net curtains, which you can imagine are regularly twitching. Irene Ruddock or Miss Ruddock (no-one has called me Irene since my mother died), as she prefers to be called; is your typical nosy parker, poking her nose into the lives of others. W...
Forever Plaid – YouTube
REVIEWS

Forever Plaid – YouTube

High school pals Sparky, Jinx, Smudge, and Francis are a talented “guy group” who call themselves ‘The Plaids’, and love singing harmony. They used the basement of Smudge’s family’s plumbing supply company to practise and they would play school proms and department stores, whilst dreaming about success and making it big. When the boys are killed in a car accident on the way to their first big gig at the Airport Hilton Cocktail Bar, on 9th February 1964, for some reason the young men linger in limbo. It’s as if they need to finish the ‘gig’ to be able to win their place in Heaven and claim the deluxe plaid dinner jackets they had dreamed of and saved up for, for so long... Some kind of phenomena allows them to return to Earth to perform their final concert but will it lead to Heav...