Talking Heads

by Alan Bennett

2002 National Tour

July 11 – October 11, 2002 – 13 week tour to 32 venues in VIC, NSW, ACT
Melbourne, Horsham, Ballarat, Nunawading, Camperdown, Moonee Ponds, Kyneton, Ararat, Portland, Colac, Bendigo, Bayswater, Wonthaggi, Warragul, Traralgon, Warburton, Shepparton, Echuca, Mildura, Broken Hill, Preston, Wangaratta, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Gosford, Wollongong, Parramatta, Taree, Lismore, Dubbo, Tuggeranong & Belrose.

A production by Christine Harris & HIT Productions

Talking Heads is a selection of two monologues, A Chip In The Sugar and A Lady Of Letters, chosen from the collection of six written by Alan Bennett and recorded for BBC Television in 1987. Both monologues explore the minute details of everyday life tied to impossible and unchangeable circumstances – wasting life and watching it pass you by. 

A Chip In The Sugar embraces this theme with sudden black humour and compassionate insight. Graham is a middle aged bachelor whose cosy relationship with his mother is threatened by the arrival of his mother’s former beau. Alan Bennett’s observation of this mother and son relationship is touching and beautiful.

In A Lady Of Letters Miss Irene Ruddock, a lonely middle aged spinster discovers the dangers of confusing fact and fiction to both her cost and eventual salvation. The monologue reveals her as a compulsive and poisonous letter writer whose interfering ways eventually lead her to prison.  In her new environment she blossoms into a gregarious prisoner and ironically finds the freedom and company that has sadly eluded her all her life.

These two monologues shine with Alan Bennett’s unique take on human foibles; they are inspiring, darkly funny, wise and deeply moving. Director Babs McMillan has chosen this particular duo for their common theme of unexpected resilience, and their distinctive and recognisable qualities. These fascinating characters will resonate with the audience – we all know these people. These richly textured and layered monologues offer wonderful opportunities for great acting and real audience stimulation and satisfaction. Indeed, the monologue is one of the most intimate forms of performance – offering a wonderfully pure form of communication with the audience.


HIT Productions lives up to its name with its teaming of familiar television figures Joan Sydney and Andrew McFarlane… The qualities that made them so enjoyable on the cathode tube are equally effective in the theatre… Sydney and McFarlane maintain that direct conversational contact with the audience…drawing solid laughs where underplaying on TV yields smiles and chuckles.
Helen Thomson, The Age, VIC, 07/02

Mainstream theatre doesn’t come much better than this…(Joan) Sydney revels in multi-layered roles which have a humorous edge. She is a delight, wielding her pen like a dagger. He (Andrew McFarlane) conveys pain and loneliness with awe-inspiring subtlety and ease. His acting is detailed and intensely affecting…Yet again, HIT Productions lives up to its name.
Chris Boyd, Herald Sun, VIC, 07/02

…this stage production even surpassed previous pleasure of these witty and insightful monologues [Talking Heads]…. This production understands their value and adds a new mark of excellence to their presentation. Definitely one of the best shows of the year.
Catherine Lambert, Sunday Herald Sun, 07/02

…Bennett’s two pieces here show a master craftsman in complete control of his material…Gary Down’s production is well served by two wonderful performances…Both actors are wonderful in these rich and entertaining texts…
Stephen Dunne, Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 09/02


Graham: Kevin Harrington / Andrew McFarlane

Miss Irene Ruddock: Joan Sydney


Playwright: Alan Bennett

Director: Gary Down 

Designer: Judith Cobb 

Lighting Designer: Rachel Burke 

Composition: Bruce Paroissien