"Talking Heads" by Alan Bennett, directed Chris and Mel Winstanley         27-30 April, 2022

Adel Players brought the curtain down on our April 2022 production and we were delighted by the appreciation shown by audience members on all four nights. Particular congratulations must go to the four actors who delivered the chosen monologues: commanding the stage in solo performance for 40 minutes plus is no mean feat, not to mention the feat of remembering all those lines! Thanks as always to our loyal patrons for their continuing support, and thanks to Chris and Mel Winstanley for bringing this marvellous production to the stage for us. Read further for a review from Donna Shoesmith Evans, but first some pictures recalling the show.

(Our special thanks to Mike Andrews and Tony Zigmond for stepping in to get these great images).

Rob Colbeck as Graham ("A Chip in the Sugar")
Mel Winstanley as Miss Ruddock ("A Lady of Letters")
Pauline Ashworth as Susan ("Bed Among the Lentils")
Amanda Ashby as Lesley ("Her Big Chance")

Review of "Talking Heads"

Our thanks to Donna Shoesmith-Evans for kindly submitting this review of our latest production:


Originally scheduled for January, but postponed due to Covid, four monologues were presented by the Adel Players, using the same staging, but with changes of curtains and furniture. The 1987 monologues had 12 in total, and a number of these had been recently revisited in 2020, due to their ease of Covid filming. The four monologues selected by the Players allowed for a wide range of character and story and, as with all Alan Bennett, the monologue lingers well after the performance itself. His work is humorous, perceptive and, when all is said and done, kindly. His characters are usually those who are the victims of life's vicissitudes: people who, because of their shyness, lack of inter-personal skills or their indifference, have been unable to forge successful personal relationships. 


The first monologue - A Chip in the Sugar - is subtle, witty and very clever. Originally performed by Alan Bennett himself and more recently by Martin Freeman, our performance was from Rob Colbeck who played the character of Graham Whittaker, an unemployed, middle-aged man, with undisclosed mental health issues. Graham quickly becomes enraged when his 70 something mother – upon whom he dotes – begins dating a man she knew as a young woman. As the story unravelled, we were treated to a flawless performance of a man who saw the world in his own way and Rob captured every word and mannerism, transporting us into Graham’s life and mindset. The usual Bennett dialogue has both humour and sadness and such witty social observation, its strength lies in the 

deadly accuracy with which it depicts and dissects the poignancies and pathos that are present in all our lives. Bennett was nominated for a 1989 BAFTA for his performance and Rob Colbeck well deserves an award for his characterisation and sensitive portrayal – an outstanding performance. 


The second monologue – A Lady of Letters – is my personal favourite story out of all the monologues. Originally performed by Patricia Routledge and most recently by Imelda Staunton, our performance was from Melanie Winstanley who was also the director of the whole production. Melanie plays the role of Irene (but prefers to be called ‘Miss Ruddock’). She puts pen to papers to complain about the many, many wrongs she sees around her. However, she ends up on the wrong side of the law when she misreads completely the situation of the family living in the house opposite. The change from home to prison was clearly established with minimal costume and scenery change. Similarly, the transformation of character was clear – Irene clearly thriving in the prison environment and feeling that she ‘fit in’ and was active and engaged. Another convincing performance with distinct characterisation. 


The third monologue – Bed Among the Lentils – is the monologue that I always think of when Communion is given. Benylin, as a substitute for Communion wine has not yet occurred, but I am always prepared! Originally performed by Maggie Smith and more recently Lesley Manville, our performance of Susan was from Pauline Ashworth who plays the vicar’s wife who finds a vision of God at the local off-licence. The calmness and serenity which originally exuded from Susan declines as she describes her apparently simple, straightforward and conventional life, yet hints at sadness, secrets and sinister undercurrents. Another superb and convincing performance. 


The final monologue -Her Big Chance -was originally played by Julie Walters, and more recently Jodie Comer, but we were entertained by Amanda Ashby’s interpretation of Lesley who is an aspiring actress. After a series of unpromising extra roles on TV programmes such as Crossroads, she finds what she believes to be her big break as the adventurous Travis in a new film for the West German market. It is not clear to what extent Lesley understands quite what sort of film she is appearing in…As an Alan Bennett viewer, you fill in the gaps before the narrator does. The clues are in what is unsaid. Travis holds back, even from herself. It’s the complete opposite of confessional “reality” TV and this was especially so in this performance. Amanda described the scene, but the audience joined up the dots as to what was going on – costume changes added to the characterisation of what again, was a superb performance. 


I am a huge fan of Alan Bennett and was delighted that the Players chose his work to perform. More please! 


Donna Shoesmith-Evans

The Production Team

Directed by:                             Melanie & Chris Winstanley

Production Manager:              David Newby

Stage Manager:                       Ron Darby

Lighting:                                   Tony Zigmond

Sound:                                      Alan Foale

Prompt:                                     Dianne Newby

Props:                                        Beth Duce

Tickets:                                      Anne & Mike Andrews

Publicity:                                   Jane Claire & Rosie Waites

Set construction:                      David Newby, Ron Darby, Declan Gallagher,Tony Zigmond, Paul Bradbury, David Pritchard, Pete & Viv Stringer, Rob Colbeck, Wendy Grisedale, Beth Duce, Dianne Newby

Front of House:                         Members of Adel Players