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Arts of the UK 2020: Talking Heads at Watford Palace Theatre (Preview)

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WATFORD – Jan Ravens and Julia Watson have been cast in Talking Heads, three of the much-loved classic monologues from British playwriting royalty, Alan Bennett, directed by Watford Palace Theatre’s own artistic director Brigid Larmour.  Poignant, comic and full of humanity, Talking Heads invites us into the hearts and minds of three peculiarly English ladies – Muriel in her tweed skirt and pearls in Soldiering On, the public-spirited Miss Ruddock in A Lady of Letters, and Susan, the long-suffering Vicar’s wife in Bed Among The Lentils.

Talking Heads was a series of 12 dramatic monologues written for BBC television. The two series were first broadcast in 1988 and 1998, and have since been broadcast on BBC Radio and included on the A-level and GCSE English Literature syllabus.

Jan Ravens is one of the UK’s most successful impressionists. She is a long running star of BBC’s Dead Ringers and her Theresa May impression has achieved cult status, going viral on social media and with over 1 million views on YouTube. She is a regular contributor across BBC Radio 4, on programmes such as Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, alongside current affairs programmes such as Broadcasting HouseThe Week in Westminster and Today. On stage, she achieved rave reviews and broke box office records with her solo show Difficult Woman and she recently completed a sell-out tour with Rory Bremner. At Cambridge she was the first woman president of the Footlights and directed the revue, The Cellar Tapes, with Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery, which won the first Perrier comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival. Her stage work includes shows at Chichester Festival Theatre, Birmingham Rep, Manchester Royal Exchange, RSC and Watford Palace Theatre. Recent television includes The Royal Variety Performance, Richard Osman’s House Of Games, The Imitation Game (ITV).

Director, and artistic director of Watford Palace Theatre Brigid Larmour said, “This project was made for Jan.  Even as a student at Cambridge she combined a virtuosic skill with accents and comedy, with an ability to get under the skin of a character and break your heart. She will make Alan Bennett’s brilliant writing sing.”

This will be Julia Watson’s third play at Watford Palace Theatre.  In 2018 she played Leonato in the all-female Much Ado About Nothing and nearly 20 years ago she appeared as Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea. Her stage work is extensive, including several plays at the National Theatre and the West End. Recent roles include Margaret Thatcher in Handbagged (Theatre by the Lake, Keswick), Arkadina in The Seagull and Mrs Durrell in My Family and Other Animals (Theatre Royal, York), Esme in Amy’s View (Nottingham Playhouse) and last year a Scottish tour of JM Barrie’s The Twelve Pound Look in which she played Kate. On television she is best known, perhaps, for playing Casualty‘s Dr Baz on and off for 18 years. She was Lyn Smallbridge in the long-running situation comedy Never the Twain and the mum in the ITV children’s show Welcome to Orty-fou. Films include the Bollywood Baar Baar Dekho and the BAFTA nominated short The Karman Line. She was the reciter in the world premiere of The Woman and the Hare (Sir Harrison Birtwistle/ David Harsent) with the Nash Ensemble.  The CD recording received a Grammy nomination for best performance.

Brigid Larmour, an experienced director, producer, and dramaturg, is Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Watford Palace Theatre. WPT credits include Absurd Person SingularMuch Ado About NothingComing UpJefferson’s GardenLove Me Do, Von Ribbentrop’s WatchFourteenPerfect MatchWe That Are Left, Mrs Reynolds and the RuffianEqually DividedOur FatherMy Mother Said I Never ShouldTime of My LifeAbsent FriendsAs You Like It, and four pantomimes.  She has a record of supporting diverse talent, since directing Charlotte Keatley’s ground-breaking My Mother Said I Never Should, and the first ‘all-Black’ British regional theatre production, Mustapha Matura’s Playboy of the West Indies, at Contact Theatre, Manchester in the 80s. From 1998- 2006 she was Artistic Director of West End company Act Productions, and adviser to BBC4 Plays.

Alan Bennett has been one of the UK’s leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for the stage, including Forty Years OnThe Lady In The VanA Question of AttributionThe Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George) and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, The History Boys won Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Olivier awards, and the South Bank Award.

Talking Heads plays from 4th to 29th march 2020 at Watford Palace Theatre. Tickets available here

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