Huddersfield Thespians’ next production is Alan Bennett’s classic, Talking Heads, a series of six monologues originally broadcast on BBC television. It opens on Tuesday 30 April at the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s Syngenta Cellar and runs until Saturday 4 May.
The production is directed by Thespians’ stalwarts Alistair Cheetham and Julie Root, who have each chosen three of the monologues to direct. They will be performed in groups of three, on consecutive evenings. Buy a two performance ticket and get a discount on both performances! Details can be found atwww.thelbt.org
We caught up with Alistair and Julie about the production:
How did you decide which of the pieces you each wanted to direct?
Julie: At first Alistair and I drew titles out of a hat but that left us both feeling slightly disappointed. So then like picking teams, we alternately selected which monologues we were particularly interested in. My first choice was A Cream Cracker under the Settee because it was the first one I saw on TV and it made a real impact on me. I then chose A Lady of Letters because of the challenge in making Irene, the initially unsympathetic protagonist, likeable. In Soldiering On I was intrigued by the extent to which Muriel appeared to be blind to the evils lurking within her family and on discovering the truth, the strategies she adopted to cope with them.
Alistair: My first choice was Bed Among the Lentils – I was intrigued by the difficulty of bringing out the humour from an intrinsically sad situation. My second choice was ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ which presents two key challenges – the first was to present a play that is so closely identified with the playwright, given that he performed it himself and secondly, presenting the only male play of the six. Finally, Her Big Chance has the challenge of being the only younger actor amongst the cast, and therefore its style and content differs from the others whilst remaining quintessentially Bennett.
Do you think the pieces have common themes that bind them all together?
Alistair & Julie: All the characters are isolated, lonely and to varying degrees, prisoners in their own homes. Each person has a secret which is well hidden, perhaps subconsciously known, but never revealed or acknowledged voluntarily. Each person hides his or her weakness. Each person keeps up a pretence of ‘normality’ and Bennett shows us how each person struggles to maintain a facade
What has been the most enjoyable aspect of directing Talking Heads?
Julie: The most enjoyable aspects of directing Talking Heads have been working alongside Alistair and with experienced and talented actors. Although we made it clear from the outset that actors needed to be off script for week two of rehearsals, we were prepared for this not to happen. However to our delight, this was largely the case and some actors even came to the first rehearsal almost word perfect. The actors’ dedication to the learning of lines and time spent thinking about and inhabiting their character has meant that we have been afforded the luxury of having time to explore the subtext, use of pauses and rhythms of the pieces at length. Working closely with Alistair has meant that we could readily bounce ideas off each other and create a unified approach.
Alistair: I think Julie has said it all! It has been a great experience working with Julie, so that there was someone else to bounce ideas off, and our unified approach has ensured that the style of presentation remained consistent. We hope that everyone will enjoy the show!