Fine performances hint at high hopes for the future

TIME and some people’s perceptions may well have overtaken Alan Bennett, but thankfully, he has yet to be toppled from his plinth by the warriors of Woke.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the new book burners will one day shriek their moral purity long and loud enough to purge some of Bennett’s narrative.

But in the meantime, we forgive his character Graham Whittaker’s references to black people and see it for it is… the portrayal of prejudice, not its endorsement.

Rhys Harris-Clarke looks alarmingly similar to the young Bennett, but regardless of this presumed coincidence, his performance as mummy’s boy Graham in A Chip in the Sugar quickly moves through the gears and settles into a superbly cool cruise control.

At times, it’s almost as if it’s Bennett himself sat in that armchair, oozing anger and resentment over the fact that his 72-year-old mother has met a man with whom she like to end her days.

Graham is not only angry that there’s a rival for his affections, but also worried that parent and son’s ménage a deux may soon come to an end.

Moa Myerson takes over the second half of this double bill in Her Big Chance. She plays the part of Lesley, a jobbing actor who, after meeting a cinematic hotshot, finds that her luck may well be about to change.

With this piece, we arrive bang up to date as a coterie of slippery, wily Weinsteins compete in the filmic forest clearing like rutting stags, desperate to mate with the luscious Lesley.

Do they, don’t they? Ah, that would be telling.

Both these young actors are fine ambassadors for the future of Britain’s currently virus-ravaged theatre scene. And when this ghastly pandemic has run its miserable course, we must all hope that they will become the great investment for better times ahead.

Director Nic Lloyd has wisely adopted a strategy of showcasing former members of Malvern Theatre’s Young Company. And it is his steady hand on the tiller that, combined with this week’s government cash injection, will see Malvern Theatres through the present arts crisis.

Talking Heads runs until Saturday (October 17) and is thoroughly recommended.

John Phillpott

 

 

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