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Lung Ha Reviews: A Lady of Letters

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Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters

Performed by Imelda Staunton and directed by Jonathan Kent, A Lady of Letters is part of the Talking Heads series written by Alan Bennett. 

Poetic dialogue and emotionally charged acting come together to create a remake of Alan Bennett's A Lady of Letters, part of the Talking Heads series presented by BBC.

First performed by Patricia Routledge in 1988, now Imelda Staunton takes on the role of Miss Irene Ruddock. Miss Ruddock, as she prefers to be called, is the self-appointed letter writer of her community. She continually writes letters about community issues including hearse drivers smoking during funerals. Disabled access and the state of the streets. Although these letters can be seen as a way of being active in the community, Bennett cleverly injects letter subjects into the monologue – such as the length of the Archbishop of Canterbury's hair or the number of policemen who wear glasses – and by inserting these Bennett gradually paints a picture of a lonely woman who's only friend is the pen she writes with. It's a real friend.

Staunton's performance throughout this piece shows off her incredible acting ability. She moves through the piece at a steady pace and plays a woman who seems like a “battle axe” but deep down she is a lonely, depressed woman. This is shown effortlessly by Staunton throughout.

Jonathan Kent's direction, although it tends to focus on the dark side of the monologue, managed to create a world in which we see something that humans often tend to keep hidden and that is the vulnerability that everyone has. Through Kent's direction and Staunton's performance we see Miss Ruddock as not just a nosey neighbour but someone who needs a friend and someone to talk to.

Gavin Yule

A Lady of Letters is available on BBC iPlayer by clicking the following link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08ftr1n