Three Talking Heads

THREE TALKING HEADS by Alan Bennett - A NODA review by Lance Milton

Thora Hird would have been proud to witness the incredible performance delivered by Mary Matson of Alan Bennett’s ‘A Cream Cracker under the Settee’ which she gave populist appeal on BBC TV and iconised Doris. Deftly directed by Hilary Westlake, Mary brought a relaxed and accessible focus to the role that had the audience feeling invested to a degree that we could have been listening to our own granny. At almost seventy-five herself the performance was not only a testament to a clearly very strong acting talent but some feat in retaining so many lines and delivering them so engagingly at a perfect pace throughout.  
Elloa Atkinson breathed comedy balanced with plausibility into the wonderfully naïve Lesley in ‘Her Big Chance’ the second of our Bennett offerings of the evening. With inspiration drawn from Peter Kay, Mike Leigh, James Corden and Ruth Jones rather than the obvious Julie Walters epitomic delivery, Elloa provided a uniquely insightful canvas to develop the character with Hilary and the result was the perfect balance between reality and hilarity. I certainly would have cast her as Travis and I am glad that Henfield cast her as Lesley.  
‘A Lady of Letters’ is easily the darkest of the three Bennett talking heads of the evening and required an actress of stature and conviction. Director Hilary must have felt like a lottery winner when fortunate enough to cast Angela Reid in the role as her presence and delivery were simply flawless. It was a joy to witness such an engaging and lucid portrayal of the curtain-twitching-poison-pen-toting Miss Ruddock. Inciting regularly audible emotional reactions from the audience, Angela had us all in the palm of her hand and utterly engaged in a wonderful performance.  
Direction, lighting, sound and slick stage management all complemented the pieces and flow of the evening as did the open thrust stage bringing the action forward and drawing the audience in. It meant yet another most entertaining evening, of classic Bennett, from Henfield.