Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Talking Heads #3 : Playing Sandwiches and Lady of Letters @ Bridge Theatre...

Last Saturday Stuart and I went to see the third brace of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues put on at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter. 

They were both stories of crimes followed by their punishments.

Playing Sandwiches sees Lucian Msamati deliver a fine performance as unassuming park attendant Wilfred, a man who befriends "kiddies" and hints of a paedophilic past.

Directed by Jeremy Herrin, it is an unsettling monologue that gradually ratchets up the tension as it goes along. Initially Wilfred seems like a nice enough guy telling us stories of his day to day life but it is with a sense of dread we realise he has a dark and hidden past. Two truly shocking moments come in quick succession; Wilfred not only abuses a seven-year-old girl, but he displaces the responsibility for his actions on to the child – "She knew what she was doing." The audience gasped.

Later he speaks of his behaviour: "It’s the one bit of your life that feels right and it’s that bit that’s wrong." We fight to feel any compassion.

The second story is the more famous one to many that sees Imelda Staunton take on the mighty Lady of Letters that is Irene. Irene is a funny old thing. Always complaining. Shooting off letters to her local council, her MP and the Queen, while her anger takes increasingly savage turns. 

While writing letters these days might seem a bit anachronistic, she might just as easily be today's keyboard warrior on Twitter. 

Directed by Jonathan Kent, Lady of Letters has a stronger script than Sandwiches that can be enjoyed for its sheer comedy value alongside the shocks and jolts.

Taking on Patricia Routledge’s original imperious 1988 performance is a quite some challenge but Staunton manages to deliver a more playful delivery and despite frequent hearing, we still laugh at the put-downs and one-liners.

For both of our criminals the inevitable prison life seems to deliver an escape. Liberation for Irene ("the first taste of freedom I’ve had for years"”) and an escape from himself for Wilfred ("a place with nobody there at all").

I must say that both plays do come across much better live than their equivalent TV versions earlier in the summer.

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