Talking Heads

  • Date:
    Tuesday, November 5, 1996

    The play starts with Margaret Tyzack in the first monologue 'Soldiering On'. This is a touching story of a woman whose husband had died. She is left with a mentally ill daughter and a unscrupulous son who swindles her out of her money. However, besides all these problems and feeling lonely she never lets things get on top of her. She always looked at the positive side of life.

    Margaret Tyzack plays the part marvelously and convincingly on a stage which consisted of just one wall and two chairs. It was a moving and beautiful 40 minutes.

    After the interval Alan Bennett came on stage. The first thing he said was "sorry I'm not Maggie Smith". He then went on to tell us some funny stories about his life and he then read from from his diaries. It was so informally presented it felt like you were in a pub and he was talking to you as a friend. One story (and I think this is how it went?) was that someone had telephoned him asked if he knew what to give Harold Pinter for his birthday, he replied he could not think of anything. But when he put the phone down he thought of something "A two minute silence!!"

    Bennett was marvelous and the best part of the evening. I was no longer disappointed that Maggie wasn't here tonight. The theatre was half empty, most taking the opportunity to exchange their tickets for another night. This was a pity because Bennett was a dream to listen too.

    Now I'll be going to see Talking Heads again when Maggie is back. But I don't think I will have as good a time as I did this evening.

    (Darren Dalglish)

    When I saw this play a few weeks ago Maggie Smith was ill and was unable to appear. However, Alan Bennett the writer of the monologues, took her place and read from his diaries. He was superb , and I thought how lucky I was to have witnessed his great storytelling on stage. So now I have returned to the Comedy theatre to see Maggie, and what a dream it was.

    The play starts with Margaret Tyzack in the first monologue 'Soldiering On'. This is a touching story of a woman whose husband had died. She is left with a mentally ill daughter and a unscrupulous son who swindles her out of her money. However, besides all these problems and feeling lonely she never lets things get on top of her. She always looked at the positive side of life.

    Margaret Tyzack plays the part marvelously and convincingly on a stage which consisted of just one wall and two chairs. It was a moving and beautiful 40 minutes.

    After the interval Maggie Smith comes on stage for her monologue" Bed Among The Lentils" which tells the story of a vicar's wife who becomes an alcoholic mainly brought about because of her unhappy marriage. She doesn't necessarily believe in God, she is bored with her husband and she doesn't get on very well with his Fan Club (Parishioners). I found this monologue very funny and strangely true to life. There are some wonderful one liners, told brilliantly by Smith whose performance was a sensation. Her voice and facial expressions are incredible!

    I highly recommend this play, it is one of the best things I've seen this year. The writing is sharp, touching and funny and the acting by both women is of the highest calibre. This is not to be missed.

    (Darren Dalglish)

    These days, the West End seems to be full of intricate (and often hydraulic) sets, lasers, fibre optics, giant statues, and helicopters. This show has none of this. Just a very basic set, an exemplary script, skillful direction, and two of the greatest actresses this country has ever seen.

    The first half is Margaret Tysack as Muriel in "Soldiering On" a tale of a middle class woman, beginning on the day of her beloved husband Ralph's funeral, progressing the string of trauma ahead of her; being swindled out of most of her wealth by her son, the reaslisation that her daughter's mental illness has been caused by interference by Ralph, and an old age of relative poverty. Muriel puts a brave face on all of this, and manages to be amusing and positive throughout, although her there is an irony in her concluding by protesting that her's is not a tragic story. Tysack gives a formidable performance, and portrayed a very likable character effectively.

    The second half is Maggie Smith, as the vicar's alcoholic wife Susan in "Bed Among the Lentils". Smith has a wonderful ability to be very funny by merely underplaying. Her's is a subtle performance, but even so she never loses her energy. Susan is an intelligent woman, but turns to drink to relieve the frustration of her dreary existence she feels so disenchanted with.

    This production is directed by the writer, Alan Bennett, who has done a superb job. His monologues are wonderful observations of humanity, and always go beyond what is apparent at face value. This is probably one of the best shows in the West End, I suggest you do not miss it.

    (Jason L Belne)

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