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Boundary Players - Talking Heads

22nd to 26th October 2013.

Review from Newbury Theatre and the Newbury Weekly News.

Unconfined by boundaries

Boundary Players: Talking Heads, at the William Penney Theatre, Tadley, from Tuesday, October 22 to Saturday, October 26

The first series of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads was broadcast in 1988 and Boundary Players chose three monologues from this series for their production. Each monologue is 40 minutes; a long time, but they are so well crafted that they are absorbing all the way through. Bennett exposes more of the character little by little, teasing us as he peels back the outer layers of the artichoke until the heart is finally exposed.

But 40 minutes is a lot of words to learn, and there are no other actors to help you out if you make a mistake…

The set, designed by Andy and Julie Abbott, was a simple black backing with a door and a large sash window. Each play had a different arrangement of furniture, and the overall effect was extremely effective – the stark simplicity helped us to concentrate on the characterisation.

The first play was Bed Among the Lentils, performed by Sam Walker. Susan is the wife of Geoffrey, the vicar, and she’s not happy with her life and their relationship. She’s an alcoholic and starts a drunken relationship with Mr Ramesh, a nearby grocer. Finally turning to Alcoholics Anonymous, she finds another church-like community.

Sam Walker had some lovely facial expressions and brought out Susan’s cynicism about her husband and the church very well. The flower arranging description was hilarious.

Next came A Chip in the Sugar, performed by Gavin Crow. Middle aged Graham has some mental problems and lives with his mum. After a chance meeting with an old friend, she starts a relationship and they get engaged. Graham finds out that her fiancé is not all he seems and order is restored.

This was a sensitive performance from Gavin Crow, with good use of his hands, highlighting Graham’s vulnerability and innocence.

Finally A Lady of Letters, performed by Chris Horton. Irene is a lonely, embittered spinster, writing letters of complaint to all and sundry. These lead her into worse and worse trouble until she ends up in prison, where her life has some meaning at last: “the first freedom I’ve had in years”.

Chris Horton started this off at a cracking pace, full of anger and resentment. Her change of mood when she went to prison was very well done, and gave a moving and uplifting end to the evening.

All three actors gave very strong performances, and the huge script excuses a very few minor hiccups with the words.

Director Pat Archer’s choice of plays went together well, and she was fortunate to have such a talented set of actors to make this an outstanding evening from Boundary Players.