Talking Heads, ImpAct on tour

talking heads3ALAN Bennett’s 13 television plays Talking Heads are widely regarded as mini-masterpieces, and marked the beginning of his recognition as a major playwright.

Now the Bournemouth based ImpAct Theatre has chosen three – Her Big Chance, originally performed by Julie Walters, A Chip in the Sugar, which Bennett performed himself, and A Lady of Letters, brought to the small screen by Patricia Routledge – for its summer tour.

Watching Joanna Dunbar, Stewart Barlow and Virginia Harrington in Patricia Richardson’s subtle and spare production, it’s hard to remember that this is an amateur company.

Each of the plays is a monologue, enough of an effort of learning to floor many actors.

The evening starts with Joanna Dunbar as aspiring actress Lesley, who has all the right phrases and ideas for a professional, but seems blissfully unaware that the role she’s been offered is in a soft porn film.


Stewart Barlow plays Graham, a middle-aged misfit still living with his widowed mum, and thrown into confusion when she takes up with an old flame.

Virginia Harrington is the spinster Irene Ruddick, living alone with the constant company of her trusted Platignum pen and a large supply of Basildon Bond, and keeping an eye on the escapades of the neighbours.

All three are lonely and prey to misunderstandings that can make their lives even more hellish.

The three performances are totally spellbinding, as the large audience at The Exchange at Sturminster Newton discovered on Sunday.

“I just can’t believe how good they are, and how lucky we are,” was the repeated chorus at the end.

Bennett set his playlets in an imagined Leeds, and the faultless accents and precise observation brings these little gems to vivid and poignant life.

There are two more opportunities to see this brilliant production, at the Mowlem Theatre in Swanage on Saturday 16th August and on Tuesday 19th August at the Regent Centre in Christchurch. Don’t miss it.


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