Review: Talking Heads

It’s not often students are placed in a position where they can watch their lecturers actually doing the subject they teach – how many budding physicists have seen their tutors in non-university laboratories? Or how many English Literature students have read a novel written by their supervisor? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m just saying it’s rare. I had the lucky occasion to see not one, but two of my own lecturers in their working profession – namely, Julia Carey and Cory Peterson acting in Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ at the Mill Studio in Guildford.

Having formed a new theatre company, CCC (or TripleC), with Catharine Humphrys, this is the first show the trio have put on, debuting as a group who aim to put on small-scale but good quality productions locally. And ‘Talking Heads’ was a fantastic start – simple, funny, heart warming, and with a somewhat surprisingly varied audience.

Bennett’s play consists of three characters and excerpts of stream-of-consciousness monologues depicting aspects of their rather unusual lives. On the face of it, it can seem like it’s been done before – one extreme being ‘Play’ by Samuel Beckett. However, this piece is anything but ordinary. As the lines and the laughs tick on, the audience becomes increasingly aware that there is a lot more under the surface of these three individuals that first meets the eye. A vicar’s wife with a penchant for wine, a man protecting his mother from something he’s not quite sure of, and a single woman standing firm as a one-woman neighbourhood watch.

Catherine Humphrys played the wonderfully efficient Irene, forever writing complaints letters, pen constantly in hand to ensure the safety and welfare of those around her was paramount, reporting on anything from a broken concrete step to a slightly cramped crematorium. With incredible commitment even throughout the semi-blackouts, Humphrys balanced the well-wisher with the obsessed, making her steady fall appear effortless and honest. This, accompanied with her light-spiritedness in the second half, made for a beautiful all-round performance that was endearing as well as sympathetic.

Although Cory Peterson struggled a little with the soft Yorkshire accent – and who can blame him, I can’t get my head around some regional accents as one who has lived in England 20 years! – and yet still managed to preserve the dignity, vulnerability, and softness within the character of Graham. With such a subtly complex role, it could have been easily overplayed, yet Peterson’s portrayal of a caring but frustrated man made him believable and strong.

‘Susan’ was given life by Julia Carey – the resigned vicar’s wife, Susan is both cynical and romantic in her search for something more to life. Creating a real sense of a woman hiding from her past, present, and future, Carey moved throughout the piece with a grounded understanding of the character, whilst appearing to always be holding that last sentence back, forever catching herself before letting too much out.

Talking Heads provides entertainment for everyone – giving the slightly wiser a chance to laugh, reminisce, or consider their own quirks to which their family would roll their eyes; younger audience members nodded knowingly at the unusual nuances of parenthood, as well as the all-knowing look from Susan when referring to her 26 year old corner-shop friend. As Triple C’s first performance, they did well to cast their net wide yet accurately, and I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us next.

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