For my GCSE Assignment I am going to discuss two monologues which are written by Alan Bennett. Talking Heads is a series of dramatic monologues written for BBC television. The plays have also been broadcast on BBC radio and performed in live theatre. The reason I have chosen these two is that they were the ones I thought were the most interesting, and accessible, in my opinion. The main character in “A Cream Cracker under a Settee” is called Doris, and she is portrayed as a very lonely and judgmental old lady.
The other monologue “A Chip In the sugar” is also portraying loneliness and selfishness in a different way; both of these monologues investigate serious human feelings and emotions. The characters in both monologues are brought to life, and as you read them you feel very involved in their lives. “A Chip in the Sugar” begins in the bedroom and gives the reader the impression of loneliness and claustrophobia, within both the house and the characters life. This is also a theme in “A Cream Cracker under the Settee”. Doris is the main character in this monologue and is played by a very famous actor called Thora Hird.
It is set in the living room and a cold damp hallway of a small, semi- detached house. The monologue called “A Chip in the Sugar” has a main character played by Alan Bennett who was the author, so this especially original. This is also portraying a small house feeling again quite out of date. There is a great similarity in the atmosphere created in each of these monologues. The collection of monologues has, in my view, a great observation of human nature. Although there is only one main character appearing throughout each one, there is actually quite a lot of action and observations of life which keeps it alive.
Sometimes a seemingly simple remark and one that does not seem very important, is actual key to the story. The monologues were written in the 1980s, and first published 1988. I do though feel that the settings are quite old fashioned, and could be set in the 1960s. The reference in A Lady of Letters to a ‘transistor’ is a very old term referring to a radio and is therefore much earlier than the 1980s. It is not a modern term at all used to describe a radio. This could be a reflection on Alan Bennett himself being quite a behind the times and an unfashionable person, or just that he is just ‘stuck in the past’.
These monologues definitely portray a different lifestyle and point of view than most people experience today. Alan Bennet, I feel, has taken a lot of ideas for these monologues from his life and people who he has met. I feel that the monologues have repetitive, recurrent and similar styles and are abbreviated stories about their past and present lives. Referring to a chip in the sugar the main character called Graham would not admit that he was as good as married to his mother. Miss Ruddock in a lady of letters would not admit that she was writing letters in a harmful way, she thought she was doing the right thing.
On reading the monologues to a deeper level I feel there are many similarities and also many differences. Although the plays deal with a variety of subjects there are many recurring themes. The themes that I notice in the two monologues I have chosen are loneliness, hubris (self pride and arrogance), and romantic irony. In A Cream Cracker under the Settee the play is about an old lady called Doris, aged seventy-five, who is a very tidy women and seeming very lonely in a large semi – detached house. She suffers a fall after cleaning her house. She is portrayed as a proud independent woman but suffering with slight dementia.
I feel that she is depressed and unhappy when she reflects on her life and what could have been. It becomes apparent that perhaps her constant nagging to her husband may have contributed to her husband’s early death. She is on her own too much except when she has to put up with her home help called Zulema, who she feels is not up to the job. We know this by the quote “Zulema doesn’t dust she half – dusts. I know when a place isn’t clean. ” Doris is constantly in fear of being put in to an old people’s home. She is constantly fighting for her independence which is fading fast. “I used to be able to reach only I can’t now”.
This is a clear indication of her failing health. This story is very demoralising and disturbing and leaves you feeling quite empty. This quote reflects that “Her eyes close and she sings a little to herself. The song, which she only half remembers, is my Alice blue Gown. ” The end of the story is quite poignant because she decides she would rather die then be cared for by any body. The monologue called a chip in the sugar is about Graham a middle-aged man with a history of miles mental health disorders. He lives with his mother in Leeds and is hard done by. The sort of person who is environmentally aware.
He is a typical Guardian reader, and he is not very modern. His life changes in a big way when his mother meets her old flame called Frank Turnbull. There are many similarities to A Cream Cracker Under The Settee in the way that there are many references to past memories here is a typical reference to the past from A Chip In The Sugar “when I first knew him he had a motor bike and a side car” not a very modern reference In A Chip In The Sugar life for Graham played by Alan Bennett, and his elderly mother has settled in to a comfortable pattern when a face from the past appears to threaten his peace of mind and way of life.
His mother planes to marry again and he finds this difficult to accept. To conclude, I feel that there is a running theme in these monologues that the characters Alan Bennett writes about do not like change, and resist any intrusion in to their every day lives. The recurring themes we have mentioned of loneliness leave the reader feeling sorry for the characters. These are plays set in the north of England, mostly in Leeds and studies people who are not forward-thinking or able to cope with any life-changing experiences.