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Alan Bennett's Talking Heads a triumph 30 years on

By: stagedoorscribbler - June 29, 2020

Imelda Staunton

It seems that those nay-sayers who decided that reviving Alan Bennett’s brilliant Talking Heads TV monologues was a bad idea got it very wrong indeed.
The new series - featuring a fresh cast of actors delivering the original monologues from 1988 and 1998 plus a couple of newly minted Bennett specials - is being hailed a triumph.
It kicked off with Imelda Staunton in Lady of Letters re-visiting the strange and troubling world of pen-toting nuisance Irene Ruddock dispensing poison from her trusty Platignum from behind the twitching nets of middle England.
This was the role that brought Patricia Routledge a BAFTA nomination back in 1988. You soon realise that the passage of more than 30 years can do no harm to writing of this quality when handed to an actor as talented as Staunton.
Never mind that these days Ruddock would be a keyboard warrior trolling people via email and social media. An essential truth remains and Bennett’s superb turn of phrase has lost none of its power.
The second monologue was a new one, An Ordinary Woman, with the ever-excellent Sarah Lancashire exploring uncomfortable territory as frumpy middle aged mum, Gwen, who finds herself sexually attracted to her 15-year-old son.
Sharing her thoughts with the camera/audience she tries to analyse and then justify her inappropriate feelings, convincing herself that they may be reciprocated. This of course is a route to familial destruction and personal disaster.
I’m really looking forward to more from this series. Other actors include Jodi Comer, Harriet Walter, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Tamsin Greig, Martin Freeman and Kristin Scott Thomas.