Sue Wallace, who is currently making audiences go from out-loud laughter to profound sadness in 'A Cream Cracker under the Settee', has worked on Alan Bennett pieces before. This time, she is playing Doris.
“I think Doris is one of Alan Bennett’s very special ladies. She’s elderly, but she’s very fiercely independent despite being on her own. She likes to keep her house very clean, and very tidy.”
So, what's Doris like? “I think she has been an amazing woman. She has had disappointments, she’s an ordinary, lovely women, who had a happy marriage to her husband Wilfred. I think they had good fun together”
Doris is on now her own. A social care worker visits her each week to clean for her. Doris is not to do any cleaning at all. “She doesn’t really like that because it has taken away part of her personality. She likes to clean, to cook, to eat meals with her husband. Gradually these things have been taken away from her. She’s lonely.”
Bringing her to life on stage can be difficult. Her character has some achingly funny lines, but the story itself is incredibly moving. What Sue has learnt during the process of rehearsing and acting this monologue is to give herself time.
“When you first start to work on it, there’s a terrible danger that you want to race through it because you don’t want to forget any words, but the more you slow down and the more you think about things before you speak, the more vivid the picture of what’s happening to her comes alive."
You have to get to grips with how she must feel. She doesn’t know anyone in her community any more. She can’t do what she used to enjoy. I must create these feelings for the audience to engage and empathise with.
For Sue, like David who is playing Graham, the audience are a big part of the monologue. “They are the other person in the play. They are essential to how these monologues are performed, you must always be thinking about connecting with everyone in the auditorium.”
“People are mesmerised by these characters and their worlds. I think they’re a fantastic, and often underused, form of theatre.”
Talking Heads is playing at the Octagon Theatre until Sat 8 July 2017