David Bathurst offers feat of memory as Festival of Chichester opener

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Chichester’s Memory Man will be in action again, this time in a special entertainment for the Festival of Chichester.

David Bathurst offers The Monologue from the Bible to Alan Bennett at the Oxmarket Centre of Arts, St Andrews Court, off East Street, on Friday, June 12 at 7.30pm and Saturday, June 13 at 7.30pm.

David will be presenting a selection of monologues past and present, some dramatic, some humorous, some thought-provoking, some inspiring, from the Sermon on the Mount to Alan Bennett, from Shakespeare to Joyce Grenfell, with music provided by Boxgrove-based vocal group Cavatina.

“What inspired me is the fact I have always enjoyed reciting things from memory. Having performed the works of, among others Flanders & Swan and Alan Bennett (both series of Talking Heads) and sections of the Bible, I thought I would get them together with some other masters of the monologue and create a mixture of monologues of all shapes and sizes, of all tones, some funny, some serious, but all requiring the speaker to convey what is going on.”

The fact is that David won’t simply be reciting from memory; his aim is to bring the pieces to life: “From the Bible, I will be reciting the Sermon on the Mount, but broken down into bite-sized chunks, coming back to it at various points in the evening. For me, it is the definitive monologue. When I learnt the Gospels and the New Testament last year, I was very struck by the fact there are not many occasions where we get Christ speaking continuously without any interruptions, without any stage directions if you like. It’s a piece of continuous teaching, and whatever your beliefs, it is a piece which has inspired so many people across the centuries and so much of it has entered our language.”

The fact it will come from memory will heighten the sense of audience connection, and to this David adds the fact he won’t be announcing the pieces. The audience will have notes: “There will be a brief spoken introduction at the start, but once you get into it, everything will be unannounced. I feel that will make it much more powerful and much more effective as a means of communication.

“There will also be snatches of Shakespeare simply because I think anything to do with monologues would be incomplete without a nod to the Bard. They will be comparatively short, things like To be or not to be from Hamlet or She should have died hereafter from Macbeth. There will also be quite a bit of Joyce Grenfell. She was the mistress or the doyenne of the 20th-century monologue in the way she was able to do things like her hilarious nursery-school sketches and then produce something very thought-provoking.”

Also included will be a section from Shirley Valentine and the words of Michael Flanders. Alan Bennett will be represented by sections from A Chip in the Sugar and A Cream Cracker under the Settee from his first serious of Talking Heads. David admits he pondered the ordering of his material, whether for instance he should package all the serious material together: “But what I decided was that I wanted to produce in each segment something that was funny, something that was thought-provoking and something possibly a little bit sad so that there will be a bit of everything in each of the six segments.”