Alan Bennett’s award-winning Talking Heads monologues, televised to considerable acclaim almost 30 years ago, are regarded as contemporary classics. In choosing three of them for their summer production, The Argyle Players set the bar high, but cleared it easily.
In Soldiering On, Mair Smith gave an affecting performance as upper-middle-class Muriel, trying to keep a stiff upper lip after the death of her husband. As her comfortable life crumbles, she is forced to confront uncomfortable family truths– but takes refuge in her innate resilience: ‘I’m not a tragic woman. I’m not that type’.
A Chip in the Sugar saw Michael Davis taking on a role initially performed by Bennett himself, and rising to the challenge. As middle-aged Graham, a bachelor whose cosy life with his mother is threatened by the arrival of her old flame, Davis not only succeeded in bringing Graham to life, but also his ‘Mam’, her natty suitor Mr Turnbull, and several other characters orbiting his small world.
Vanessa Bishop was both funny and moving as deluded bit-part actress Lesley, always on the lookout for Her Big Chance – whether that’s a walk-on part in Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist or villain’s girlfriend in a film that seems to involve a surprising amount of nudity…
Monologues are a unique test of an actor’s abilities: he or she must learn an enormous amount of material, as well as carrying the success or failure of that portion of the show on their shoulders alone. The Argyle trio all proved their mettle, entertaining the audience with great solo performances. On Saturday night at the Tovey Hall, it was definitely a case of ‘heads you win’.