Alan Bennett Talking Heads
In Bennett's monologues the main character faces an important decision
which will affect the course of their lives. I will go on and explain
in this essay, the play writer's use of literary techniques -
including setting, theme and characterisation- which may make the
decision seem correct or not. Talking Heads was originally produced
for BBC television but has recently been used as a collection of short
stories. Each of the characters portrayed, is played by an actress
that has been previously associated with Alan Bennett e.g.:Thora Hird
who plays Doris worked on a BBC Radio 4 programme - Deadringers .It is
safe to say that Alan Bennett tailored some of the material, to suit
the actors, own individual style of acting.
Each literal technique plays its own vital part of the story and to
begin with I am going to look at how setting takes shape in the plays.
Most of Bennett's work is focused primarily in the North of England,
mainly Yorkshire, partly because that is where he grew up and a
Northern perceptive is shown throughout the monologues. While
Bennett's "Englishness" and "Northerness" (terms by no means
synonymous) are evident to see, they are no more nationalistic nor
But at a closer view, the three stories I am studying are set mainly
in a few areas- A Chip in the Sugar is quite spread out over a
distance(Lancashire, Durham and Yorkshire), whereas 'A lady of
Letters' and 'A Cream Cracker' are set in the house of the persona.
Setting greatly influences the characters behaviour and attitude,
because they are Northerners, they are very traditional people who are
stuck in their ways, and of course this opens the North- South Divide
argument. We British (particularly the English) do not like change,
which is shown from Oliver Cromwell right up to the modern day,
whenever a change is suggested; it is controversial whether it is the
Euro or changing the name of Coco pops to 'Choco' flakes. Bennett
reflects this very well by transferring this British habit to his
characters. All of them are dead against a change in their lifestyle.
This is excellently demonstrated in 'A Cream Cracker'- Doris wants to
stay in her house, but the council recommends she moves to a nursing
home , but she refuses on the grounds of hygiene-clearly this shows
that she is against a change of setting and a change of life and this
is cleverly portrayed throughout the plays.
Is their setting a safe haven or a prison? Looked at from different
angles, we all would have different views. With Graham, his home and
mainly his bedroom is a sanctuary for him, some where he can escape
prejudice and critics, but on reflection what they really are - is a
hiding place , a place for Graham to hide away and wallow in self
pity. But for Irene she feels her home is a prison. She has no freedom
or liberty, no way to express herself. The only way she achieves this
is by writing letters which may anger...