Saturday 21st February 2015 at 8 p.m.
The Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey is a neat little play house and it was well filled last night for Talking Heads. Under this title there are a number of monologues written by Alan Bennett for BBC Television in the 1980s and 90s. Two of the most successful, ‘Lady of Letters’ and ‘Her Big Chance’ have been chosen by director Peter Quigley for this week of drama and actress Nuala McKeever is the talking head who brings the two characters to life.
They are witty, incisive and dramatic monologues, one the story of Irene a spinster living alone in Ballymena bored with her own company following her mother’s death so she becomes a self appointed neighbourhood watch. She fills her time twitching curtains and trying to right wrongs by writing letters to anyone who needs correction and going to the top to get answers, even to Buckingham Palace to complain about dog dirt outside the Palace Gates. Her Majesty doesn’t reply. The letters fly, so do the accusations and when they come home to bite her she ends up with plenty of company in jail.
Nuala only has the interval to transform from Irene, dowdy and twee, to Lesley, a glamourous feisty young actress looking for glory. She’s served her time with bit parts on TV soaps and as an extra in a Roman Polanski film. At last she is offered her big break, shooting a video for the West German market. It’s set on a yacht, it requires work on the casting couch yet she goes along with everything, she’s a ‘proo-feshonal‘ after all, she will play the star Travis to her fingertips and everyone will love her. Will they? What are the consequences?
The director describes these as verbal portraits of two very different women. “These pieces are touching and sad but Nuala also brings out the humour so well and working with her for the first time has been a pleasure.”
He adds that, with the letter falling out of use, these days people keep in touch by computer and who keeps an e-mail? “Maybe after seeing this piece we’ll be inspired to lift the pen and record local history by way of correspondence.”
Of the two pieces, ‘Her Big Chance’, gives Nuala the opportunity to display her natural comedic talents and she gloried in it and so did the audience. We worry about Lesley, the hopeful young actress, she is very gullible but need we be concerned?
The first part of the evening is thoughtful and slow, the second just the opposite. A camera in the wings showing Nuala on a screen on stage gives another dimension to the set, it works for ‘Her Big Chance’ not so well for the ‘Lady of Letters’.
Nuala McKeever has the knack of establishing a rapport with the audience from the word go and it’s not surprising that she got a warm ovation when she took her final bow.
By Anne Hailes
Check all Anne Hailes Belfast Times reviews here.
More details at www.thecourtyardtheatre.com