As Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads returns to TV screens in a new version this week, we look back at The Stage’s original review of the monologues, a little over 32 years ago (April 21, 1988). Our critic reported:
“Talking Heads is a witty and skilfully presented series of monologues from the inimitable pen of Alan Bennett, who also plays in A Chip in the Sugar, as a middle-aged man living with his widowed mother who has just started seeing an old flame. As with all these monologues, we hear the story only from the view of the narrator, yet the other characters, though unseen and probably misrepresented, take on lives of their own and are vividly present.
“A Chip in the Sugar, a title which could only have been thought up by Bennett, sets the tone for the series, which all begin as though they might only be intended to create a mood and a single reminiscing character, yet gradually develop a strong narrative strength, making the narrator reveal far more of himself than we expect, and reach a quite devastating climax.
“Bennett is a master of understatement, the art of leading up gently to the unexpected stroke of melodrama or tragedy. The wit, which seems kindly enough to begin with, eventually proves lethal.
“Next week brings Patricia Routledge in A Lady of Letters. Maggie Smith is the third actress to be featured, as a cynical and disillusioned vicar’s wife who sees through her husband and his parishioners. This is wildly comic, and the gifted Maggie Smith gives a virtuoso performance, as stunning as the one she is currently giving in Lettice and Lovage.”
For more from The Stage Archive, visit thestage.co.uk/archive