Talking Heads

For Wig and Mitre’s first production, Talking Heads was always going to be a risky choice. Alan ’s works are award-winning, tender pieces and it is easy for amateur productions to get them dramatically wrong. Luckily, the three monologues chosen for this performance were coupled with under-stated, sensitive, believable acting and wonderful direction.
’s observation of strained relationships, fear, guilt, and attitudes to death, religion, isolation were realised accomplishedly and movingly in this production. When contrasted with the beautifully mundane details of the characters lives, it was hard for the audience not to be charmed.

The opening monologue gripped the audience’s attention from the outset and did not lose it. In fact all three pieces were captivating from start to finish, no easy feat when one predominantly still actor is the sole focus for half an hour of  dialogue.

Steffi Walker was magnificent as Susan aka ‘Mrs Vicar’, whose failed dreams and housewife plights demonstrated ’s interest in the everyday hardships of everyday people. Through Walker’s expressive changes between sadness and comedy, discussing the competition amongst the parish women in flower arranging, dinner parties, her affair with the grocer Ramesh Ramesh, and slowly building to her acceptance of her alcoholism, the darkly comic yet poignant life came across brilliantly.

Tom Elkid played 50 year old Graham naturally and warmly. As in the first piece ‘Bed Among the Lentils’, the second, ‘A Chip in the Sugar’, was engaging and at times very funny, yet complimentary to the tragic tone of ’s monologue.

The final piece was effectively saved until last, being the most heart-rending and least humorous. In ‘A Cream Cracker Under the Settee’ 75 year old Doris had fewer quips, despite the comic despair at her helper Zulema and the devious plan of re-hiding a cream cracker under the settee to get her fired. It was by far the most obviously moving. Doris was played so beautifully by Rebecca Mackinnon who touchingly portrayed the helplessness of getting older, the tragedy at the death of both her husband and stillborn baby and who, after falling when dusting and declining help, chooses to live life on her own terms.

Director Fergus Leathem did well not to encourage over-acting in the production, staying true to ’s masterpieces. The set and lighting were simple and worked to draw you into the character’s lives.

The costumes of Talking Heads definitely deserve a mention too. Graham’s beige and green attire and Doris’ whitened hair and granny-blue dressing gown worked delicately and, deliberate or not, the ladders in Susan’s tights reflected her monologue ingeniously.

Talking Heads was skilfully realised and thoroughly enjoyable. Wig and Mitre Productions are one to watch after this first performance, the first one to hit the Assembly Rooms this decade and hopefully not the last.

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