BWW Review: TALKING HEADS: HER BIG CHANCE, BBC iPlayer
Continuing the BBC's revival of Alan Bennett's iconic Talking Heads, Her Big Chance features Jodie Comer as an aspiring actress. Best known for her role in the BBC's Killing Eve, Comer bravely takes on the role originally played by the brilliant Julie Walters, bringing warmth, sympathy and wide-eyed naivety to the part.
Lesley has had several small acting roles, but unexpectedly believes she has finally found her big break. The role is a girl called Travis, who apparently spends most of the film on the deck of a yacht. As she slowly reveals the story of the shoot, it becomes clear that she is unwittingly involved in a soft adult film, but remains oblivious to this.
Comer is the youngest actor in these new versions of the monologues, but shows that she really deserves to be cast alongside such acting stalwarts such as Imelda Staunton and Tamsin Greig. Comer has a real connection to the audience, as Lesley relates her story and confides in the viewer. These monologues are a real challenge for the actor; the scenes are long and have no cutaways, meaning that an actor need to nail each scene all in one go.
Bennett's script, as ever, contains a huge amount of detail. Lesley crams references to 25 other characters in the 40-minute monologue. He creates a character that we feel simultaneously sorry for and amused by; Lesley is somewhat deluded by the level of her talent, but she is also very committed to the craft, wanting to invest in every character, however small. She is also clearly vulnerable and open to exploitation, seeming to be oblivious to the true nature of the shoot and the Director's intentions.
Josie Rourke's direction is subtle, but very thoughtful. First shot through Lesley's bedroom window, then from inside and backstage on the film set. This version very much remains in the 80s; details such as high-waisted stone-washed jeans, huge wavy hair and ostentatious pearl and gold earrings couple with references to Crossroads and West Germany. What with the #MeToo movement, it is also depressing to see that the exploitation that Lesley faces is far from a problem that used to occur in the past.
Although not the most dramatic or hard-hitting of some of these monologues, Her Big Chance is a demonstration of some quietly remarkable acting by Comer and is a worthy part of this excellent series.
Alan Bennett's Talking Heads is now on the BBC iPlayer
Photo Credit: BBC/London Theatre Company