AN EVENING OF ALAN BENNETT
Heads First Theatre Company at Brentwood Theatre
Miss Schofield has been uprooted from her little backwater, ending up in the clinical anonymity of Sister Tudor's hospital ward. We never discover what ails her, though we come to realise, as she does, that she'll never visit Australia, never again wear the little fitted coat from Richard Shops.
Glenda Abbott's masterly performance, moving and acutely observed, took us on the long decline from tiny busybodying triumphs in the works canteen, through the consulting room to the operating theatre and the bed by the window. Her expression when she heard the bad news spoke volumes, and she caught exactly the melancholy dying fall of Bennett's dialogue. Ageing visibly – helped by careful lighting – she found tragedy in the get well cards, and ended her days in a wheel chair, watching the fly that has singled her out …
Her music was Ronnie Binge's Cornet Carillon, just the thing on the wireless of a Friday night.
Mr Dodsworth is more of a Middle-of-the-Road, Easy Listening man. Like Miss Schofield, he once believed himself indispensable. Now he's retired to spend more time with his budgie, and put all thoughts of Warburton's docketing system behind him. Until Miss Prothero disturbs his slumbers with news of root and branch, new-broom changes. Glenda Abbott's Peggy had much in common with her Margaret – that's there in the writing, too – but she had a sharper, meaner streak. Brian Terry's florid Arthur fussed about his sitting room, talking to Millie [the bird] and Winnie [his late wife], proud to be branching out into pottery and Cordon Bleu. The pathos at the end was palpable, as he realised his dependence on the old firm, and the “bad, boring bitch” who's stirred up the still waters of his little backwater.
This Alan Bennett double bill – A Woman of No Importance and A Visit from Miss Prothero – was directed for Heads First by Marjorie Dunn.
A Visit from Miss Prothero was originally teamed with another one-acter about the workplace, Green Forms. And for all the delights of this tour-de-force, a little more variety might have made for a better balanced evening.