Wednesday, August 10

Tag: Alan Bennett

The Lady in the Van – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse
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The Lady in the Van – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

In common with most people who love the theatre, I adore the prodigious output of plays, books and diaries that Alan Bennett has produced over the course of the last half century, however, I have never really subscribed to the view that he belongs in the pantheon of comfortable personalities that make up our 'National Treasures'. Bennett himself despises the term, and there has always been as much vinegar as sugar in his writing as he wryly chronicles the state of the nation, so to bracket him with as characters as bland as David Beckham and Joanna Lumley, is to give a somewhat distorted view of his place in modern Britain. His style is perfectly exemplified by his 1999 play 'The Lady in the Van', which started its week long run at the Garrick Playhouse in Altrincham this evening, in this...
Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: The Outside Dog – BBC iPlayer
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Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: The Outside Dog – BBC iPlayer

One of the strong suites Alan Bennett has always had is his ability to write convincingly for women. The sort of women a boy from a respectable middle-class Leeds family would have known growing up. When he put these women into his writing they attracted the great and good of acting to portray them. Dames Julie, Thora and Patricia are the ones which spring immediately to mind. They are synonymous with the piece. It is therefore interesting to revisit the work with new faces in the frame. I have seen some of his “Talking Heads” presented with new faces on stage, but we are currently being treated with television presentations, so comparisons are inevitable. It is a testament to the skill of Rochenda Sandall that thoughts of Julie Walters (the original Marjory) are thrown out of the wind...
Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: The Hand of God – BBC iPlayer
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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...
Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet – BBC iPlayer
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Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet – BBC iPlayer

‘There she is on the tellybox,’ I said. ‘Who?’ asked mother. ‘Maxine Peake,’ I said. ‘Oh,’ says mother. ‘We saw her at the Royal Exchange.’ ‘Did we?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘In Hamlet, A Streetcar Named Desire and Miss Julie.’ ‘Oh yes, I remember, I sat next to that travelling salesman from Didsbury with bad breath.’ ‘Yes, that’s right mother.’ She watched the tellybox and I thought there was no point telling her that they were all directed by Sarah Frankom and when Ms Peake won an award for outstanding contribution to British theatre she put down her success to the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Ms Frankom. Mother wouldn’t be interested to know that this thing on the tellybox reunited Ms Frankom and Ms Peake. ‘Don’t be so nerdy,` she’d say. ‘Who’ll be interested in that.’ Sadly, the R...
Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Bed Among the Lentils – BBC iPlayer
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Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Bed Among the Lentils – BBC iPlayer

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads are well known for exploring the darker themes of society and the people within it. Bed Among the Lentils is no exception, diving into the alcoholism and infidelity which shape vicar’s wife, Susan’s (Lesley Manville) life. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, this dark, comic piece, particularly explores the role of the church in the sex lives of its parishioners and life behind the closed door of the vicarage. Opening in a tidy and old-fashioned kitchen, we meet Susan, a heavy smoker and heavy drinker, modestly, and somewhat drably, dressed, as she talks about her marriage to local vicar, Geoffrey. Black comedy is present from the start, as she describes Geoffrey’s recent sermon which explained how the institution of marriage gives a licence to sex and having sex ...
Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Nights in the Garden of Spain – BBC iPlayer
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Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads: Nights in the Garden of Spain – BBC iPlayer

Number nine in the new series of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads is a remake of the 1998 monologue Nights in the Garden of Spain.  Originally featuring Penelope Wilton, it is now Tamsin Greig's turn to recreate Rosemary Horrocks.  Like the majority of the Talking Heads pieces, Nights in the Garden of Spain is set in Alan Bennett's semi fictionalised version of Leeds. It is the 1990s and Rosemary and her husband Henry live in a fairly well to do suburb of Leeds, on a street of mostly detached houses.  Henry is keen to sell up and move to Marbella and the passive Rosemary is going along with his choice.   But one morning as she is going to the shops, her neighbour Mrs McCorquodale stops her.  Her husband is dead and she needs help.  It transpires that she ...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: The Shrine – BBC iPlayer
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Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: The Shrine – BBC iPlayer

In the new series of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, ten of the twelve are remakes of five of the original six from 1988 and the another five from 1998.  Two of the original series' have not been remade as they required actors over the age of seventy.   There are two new ones, written last year and filmed this year under social distancing conditions.  One of these new ones is number twelve The Shrine. Lorna is a woman in her fifties and the monologue starts a few days after she has lost her husband Clifford in a motorbike accident.   The police have offered to take her to the scene of the accident, but she does not wish to go.  As the piece continues she has decided to visit the place of the accident and then returns regularly, making herself a seat and...
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: A Chip in the Sugar – BBC iPlayer
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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
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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
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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...