Talking Heads at Bath Theatre Royal

Talking Heads - Karl Theobald as Graham Whittaker in A Chip in the Sugar - Photo credit Nobby Clark - (4)THREE of Alan Bennett’s brilliant monologues from the Talking Heads series make up the second show of the Bath Theatre Royal Summer Season, and on until Saturday 8th August.

Lady of Letters, which starts the performance, has Siobhan Redmond as the lonely busybody Miss Ruddock. Trapped in her bare flat and alone after the death of her mother, she’s the ultimate curtain twitcher, but she jumps to all the wrong (and worst) conclusions about the things she sees.

And she has a compulsion to write letters about them. Armed with her trusty Platignum and a block of Basildon Bond, she corresponds with the local crematorium, the vicar, the council and even Buckingham Palace.  But this time she’s gone too far …

Sioban Redmond subtly conveys how good intentions mixed with desperation can turn toxic, and how joy can come from the most unexpected situations.

Karl Theobald, a regular television actor best known for his hilarious contribution to the brilliant Olym­pics skit Twenty Twelve, plays Graham in A Chip in the Sugar. This is the role Bennett himself played when Talking Heads was televised.

Graham lives with his widowed mother, but when she meets an old flame it looks as though his companionable situation is wrecked.

Bennett’s brilliance comes to the fore in this short play, full of keen observation and poignant asides.

Talking Heads - Cream Cracker-1 Photo Nobby Clark -- (2)The final play brings Stephanie Cole back to the Theatre Royal stage as Doris in A Cream Cracker Under the Settee, one of the most familiar of the set of plays. A solitary widow with a fear of being moved into the local old people’s home, she reminisces about the tragedies of her life and the isolation she and her husband preferred, as she decides on a course of inaction that will be her last act of free will.

It all sounds very gloomy, but  Bennett’s playlets are realistic and beautifully observed  glimpses of real lives, full of poignancy and sympathy. Almost 30 years on, and with 70 now proclaimed as the new 50, we may have different expectations and different memories, but the ache of loneliness and the confusion of old age are something we all need to confront.

Sarah Esdaile’s production, with these three fine actors capturing every nuance of the characters, is beautifully done and a delight for Bath audiences.


The final play of the season is the stage premiere of a new musical version of Mrs Henderson Presents. It opens on Saturday 15th August and runs until 5th September.

Photographs by Nobby Clark

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