Talking Heads review: A truly heroic project

Talking Heads at the Bridge Theatre is a truly heroic project: Both these excellent, very short evenings are proof that less can be a whole lot more

Talking Heads: Nights In The Gardens Of Spain & Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet

Until October 24, 1hr 20mins

Playing Sandwiches & A Lady Of Letters

Until October 31, 1hr 5mins                                 Bridge Theatre, London SE1

Rating:

This is the triumphant conclusion to the series of starry monologues at the Bridge Theatre – a truly heroic project to keep live theatre ticking over during lockdown.

Most written more than 20 years ago, these solo plays come with a dollop of loneliness and perversion. Alan Bennett serves them up, as usual, with a cosy metaphorical plate of custard creams.

In Nights In The Gardens Of Spain, Tamsin Greig has never been better as Fran, the timid, faltering wife who finds that her neighbour has killed her husband after years of violence and sexual humiliation. 

Maxine Peake (above) is boisterous in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet. She runs Soft Furnishings in a department store and her weary feet are regularly seen to by a handsome Leeds podiatrist

Maxine Peake (above) is boisterous in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet. She runs Soft Furnishings in a department store and her weary feet are regularly seen to by a handsome Leeds podiatrist

Greig is pitch- perfect, getting across her sensitive charm in sudden rushes of speech and then silences in this revelatory story that ends, unforgettably, with a shiver-inducing touch of evil. 

As a performance, I’d say it’s been the best of this star-studded series.

Maxine Peake is more boisterous in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet. She runs Soft Furnishings in a department store and her weary feet are regularly seen to by a handsome Leeds podiatrist. 

Peake’s acting is a bit knowing, but this hilarious tale of foot fetishism and benign prostitution still works a treat.

Patricia Routledge – one of Bennett’s best-loved interpreters – starred in A Lady Of Letters when it was first screened in 1988. She would lift her eyes up and roll her tongue in her mouth in a way that brought the shrivelled, bitter character of Irene Ruddock to such vivid life. 

Likewise, Imelda Staunton is effortlessly ghastly as this peevish spinster forever firing off complaining letters, including one to the Queen about dog poo near Buckingham Palace. 

Armed with her pen and her malevolence, she’s all alone – until the day the police come to call.

The piece is paired with Playing Sandwiches, in which Lucian Msamati plays a trusted park maintenance man with a hidden criminal record. Both these excellent, very short evenings are proof that less can be a whole lot more. 

A Lady of Letters and Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet are also now playing at the Sheffield Crucible (Nov 9-11) and Leeds Playhouse (Nov 12-14) 

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