Eliza Burrows-McGill, Lesley in her big chance

Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ at OFS until Saturday

Those of us who were fortunate enough to see the original BBC dramatization of Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ in 1988 saw a landmark in British comedy, as he produced a number of wonderful sketches as monologues in which lonely and delusional people tell their painful stories whilst inadvertently making us laugh.

“the lucky few to occupy the 38 seats available are in for a treat”

They combine acute yet gentle observations of ordinary life and served as a contrast to the aggressive political satire of ‘alternative comedy’.

Edward Smith, Graham, Chip in the Sugar

These monologues have recently been reworked by the BBC to meet contemporary sensibilities, and now the Oxford based Eleven One Theatre is currently putting on four of the original sketches in Oxford, in conjunction with the Old Fire Station.

They can both be very proud that it is one of the first live and non-virtual performances in Oxford after lockdown, and although the theatre is running at a third of its capacity, the lucky few to occupy the 38 seats available are in for a treat. There is even the opportunity to buy drinks beforehand.

The cast, which varies from night to night.

On the night I went we had an all-female cast, (although the cast varies as evidenced by the pictures), the acting was excellent throughout, and the humour hasn’t dated at all.

In Bed Among The Lentils (directed by Mike Taylor) we find Susan, poignantly played by Alison Stibbe, facing a losing battle against alcoholism as she tries to cope with the boredom and sexual frustration of life with her vicar husband by seeking comfort in Mr Ramesh, who is ‘26 with lovely legs’.

“A splendid night out, which I’d thoroughly recommend you trying to see”

In A Lady of Letters (directed by Matthew Aids) a superb Fleur Yerbury-Hodgson plays Irene, a lonely busy-body whose letters of complaint lead to a restraining order – “I saw he had cycle clips on, so I let him in’”– and eventually prison, where her new found companionship transforms her – “And I’m so happy”.

Susan, bed among the Lentils, Alison Stibbe

In Her Big Chance (again directed by Mike Taylor) Eliza Burrows-McGill convinces as a sexy but deluded actress Leslie, who presses throughout for directorial direction for ‘method-acting’ – in a minor role at a ‘finger buffet’ scene she asks ‘are we toying or tucking in?’ – whilst being unaware that she is in a porn movie, which builds up to my favourite Bennett line of all: “Who do you think you’re playing, Emily Bronte? Guther wants to see your knockers.”

A splendid night out, which I’d thoroughly recommend you trying to see. The performances continue this week until the Saturday October 24, and tickets can be purchased online on the Eleven One Theatre and OFS websites.

http://www.111theatre.co.uk/new/talkingheads.php

https://oldfirestation.org.uk/whats-on/talking-heads/

SIMON COURT

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