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BWW Review: TALKING HEADS: NIGHTS IN THE GARDEN OF SPAIN, BBC iPlayer

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BWW Review: TALKING HEADS: NIGHTS IN THE GARDEN OF SPAIN, BBC iPlayer

BWW Review: TALKING HEADS: NIGHTS IN THE GARDEN OF SPAIN, BBC iPlayerI guess it was inevitable that the 2020 series would have its own definitive performance, but I confess that I didn't expect it to come in this one. Tamsin Grieg is simply extraordinary as a lonely, slightly eccentric woman who befriends an abused wife who fought back and learns more about her husband than she would like to know.

Though it's a reviewer's job to explain and evaluate elements like performance, direction, pacing, sometimes you have to give up and confess that you do not have the tools to do so. Greig, ever so calmly and softly, leads us into a hellish labyrinth of secret sadism, miraculously never losing the the everyday quality of the tale - the real power behind Bennett's supercharged script. Each element may be perfectly judged, yet the whole is still greater than the sum of its parts.

The accounts of appalling abuse come from a woman sitting in a well-appointed home, wearing a cardigan, speaking with more passion about gardening than anything else. You cannot help looking across your own road and wondering, Bennett jabbing at a nerve yet again.

It's not just an issues-led piece either - Greig's Rosemary comes late in life (as so often is the case in these monologues) to an understanding of what she has missed through never finding a friend in whom she can confide, support, even touch. There may an element of Rosemary being less than 100% straight, but it's more the product of a certain shyness in her youth and then the coldest of cold fish husbands - that there are people who live in such emotionally isolated spaces is a distressing truth with which to be confronted.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom - this is real life stuff, so there are moments of humour (intentional and unintentional) in Rosemary's life. That dimension adds to the supreme achievement of this piece - directed with a preternaturally calm assurance by Marianne Elliott - not so much that this could happen, but that it probably is.

And not that far away.

Alan Bennett's Talking Heads is now on the BBC iPlayer.

Photo BBC/London Theatre Company


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