Talking Heads by Alan Bennett: A Chip in the Sugar performed by Kevin Harrington; A Lady of Letters performed by Joan Sydney. HIT Productions directed by Gary Down. Tuggeranong Arts CentreSeptember 16, 2002.
Yorkshire, England 1987. On the telly you're watching this middle-aged man rabbiting on about his Mam. Still living with her, you know, this Graham. And he gets all upset because, at her age of 72 mind you, she meets up with an "old flame" from "before your time". Before Graham's father's time, too. Calls her Vera, but Graham's Dad never did. But it turns out alright when the old flame's daughter turns up and takes him away. He's always doing this, she says. Graham's Mam cries a bit, but she's forgotten him the next day, and says she still loves Graham.
A sad little story of circumscribed lives. Next week you watch this lady Miss Ruddock telling you all about the letters she writes and the replies she gets, and how she ends up in gaol. And it's funny because on her own at home she's so spiteful, but amongst the women in gaol she brightens up no end. But you wonder what she'll be like when she gets out: she won't really get a job typing letters, will she? She'll be round the bend again in no time.
Kevin Harrington (SeaChange) and Joan Sydney (A Country Practice) received what they said was the ultimate praise in the forum, after performing these monologues on stage in Canberra in 2002: "You were real for me" and "My mother was just like that", and it was generally agreed that these little scraps of English, even specifically Yorkshire, lives were given universal humanity by Alan Bennett.
We're just jobbing actors, explained Sydney, taking what work we can get. It's all in the writing, even the pauses. Bennett makes it easy for us. But it's not our job to tell you what we think about the interpretation of the plays, said Harrington. We just act, and it's your job to decide what you think.
"It was really good to see famous actors in the flesh," said a couple of TCA regulars. "We've never been to a forum after a show like this. A great night out."
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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