Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Lesley, the unwitting porn actress, played by Linda Phillips

Talking Heads

Moorpool Players, Moorpool Hall


A VICAR’S wife with a penchant for the communion wine, a jailed busybody, a repressed gay mother’s boy and a naive porn actress – in short a night at a packed Moorpool Hall.

Amateur theatre never fails in its propensity to surprise. At one end, and thankfully rare, are the unrehearsed versions of The play that goes wrong, at the other, the osusanccasional gem, performances so polished they are amateur only in so much as no one gets paid.

Talking Heads from Moorpool Players is one such, four very different characters linked only by four equally accomplished performances.

Talking Heads being the series of six monologues Alan Bennett wrote for BBC TV in 1988, all set in his native Leeds.  

Liz Bridgewater as the alcoholic Susan

Written initially for the close up intimacy of the TV screen, a one on one medium, the transfer to the stage has seen them as favourites for the equally intimate surroundings of studio productions, so directors John Healey and Norma Mason have done well to transfer that necessary closeness to the audience, as if the characters are speaking personally just to you, on to a larger stage.

For an actor it is a daunting task, a half hour alone on stage, with no action or props to speak of and pages of script to learn, but for all that they are dream roles; beautifully written, with a chance to create strong characters, and plenty of gentle humour which needs to be skilfully teased out, as it was here with not a single laugh lost or thrown away.

They are not jokes mind, just asides, or comments, eccentricities and manners of the four disparate characters.

First up was Bed Among the Lentils with Liz Bridgewater as vicar’s wife Susan whose devotion to her maker was somewhat more limited than her devotion to cheap sherry and communion wine.

A devotion which leads her to Mr Ramesh Ramesh’s shop in Leeds – mainly because of her rather large debts at the village off licence by the church – which in turn leads her to an extramarital affair with the slim, 26-year-old, hockey playing Ramesh in a storeroom among the lentils.

It is a beautifully measured performance, littered with glorious throwaway lines as we see, through her, the parish and the politics of the C of E, there is the vicar’s fan club among the upstanding ladies of the grahamparish and the Church’s love of conferences on the Church’s role in some unthought of area of life, such as . . . underfloor heating. Then there is her husband’s delight at having an alcoholic wife, someone who he could actually claim to have saved with the help of God - even if it was Mr Ramesh who had set her on the road to redemption by asking if she had to be three sheets to the wind to have sex with him.

Bridgewater manages to get just the right balance between laughs and pathos to bring Susan to life.

Tricia Martin bristles with wonderful indignation as Irene Ruddock, A Lady of Letters, a lonely, interfering, seemingly friendless, interfering woman who has a strong view on everything around her, usually right wing, and is quite willing to speak her mind, or more accurately, write her mind to all and sundry with any minor transgression, real or imagined, a cause to reach for her trusty Platinum pen and let fly. 

Sad and lonely Graham, played by Mark Earey

Even a suspended sentence after a particularly misguided series of accusations against a neighbour is not enough to hold her and her pen back, which sees Irene incarcerated in jail, where, irony of ironies, she at last finds happiness and freedom.

Martin’s Irene is hardly a likeable character, but she makes her sad rather than scorned, the sort of woman most of us know, and the sort we evade to avoid a half hour litany of the ills of the world.

In Chip in the Sugar Mark Earey’ Graham is a much sadder character in a part that demands sensitivity. Graham is a repressed homosexual with a history of mental problems who, apart from a spell in a hostel, still lives at home with his 72-year-old mother.

It might not be an ideal relationship, but it is stable, and has the crutch and comfort of being routine which is what Graham craves, until old flame Frank Turnbull turns up, sweeping mam off her feet, proposing marriage and, horror, suggesting Graham should move out.

But all is not as it seems and Graham is triumphant as he reveals Frank’s secret, a secret which devastates his mam, but returns everything to norIrenemal for him. Earey gives us a son who is petulant, paranoid and more dependant upon his mother, the only relationship he has, than she on him. A glorious pictures of a sad, lonely man.

Sad is not something that can be said about Lesley, Linda Phillips’ character. She is an aspiring actress with a series of completely unmemorable walk on parts in film and TV, you may have seen her as the third woman in shawl from the left at the back of a passing cart in Roman Polanski’s Tess, the highlight of her career so far.

A chance encounter at a party brings Her big chance, the part of Travis in a low budget film being made for the West German market.

Tricia Martin's interfering old busybody, Miss Ruddock, who finds a sort of freedom and sensual awakening in jail

Lesley, who has a suggestion for her character, milking and hopefully expanding her part for every scene, is persuaded first to go topless, then bottomless, all to enhance the artistic integrity of her part - or so she is told . . . the pigs must be flying low today.

Presumably for artistic reasons, on completion of the film she ends up in bed with Gunther, the director. Phillips makes her a bubbly character, an actress in parts so minor they are merely decoration in the background, yet who still wants to give them meaning, or in this particular case needs meaning to do them.

Naïve, sweet and, from the times she appears to end up in bed, somewhat accommodating, we are still not clear at the end if Lesley actually realised she had been in a soft porn film as she talks about her big break. It’s a nicely paced tale of a none too bright actress with aspirations of a stardom that will probably never be fulfilled beyond roles in low budget porn.

The four characters are all different, with the excellent portrayals creating people who come to life. Each brim full with gentle humour, along with traits of sadness, loneliness and, in the case of Lesley, hope. Every one interesting and built up skillfully.

It was a packed house on opening night and the cast of four served up a treat in what was a most enjoyable evening with quality writing, excellent acting and first class entertainment. To 21-05-16

Roger Clarke


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