A Chip in the Sugar

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"A Chip in the Sugar"
Talking Heads episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byStuart Burge
Written byAlan Bennett
Production code1.1
Original air date19 April 1988
Running time35 Minutes
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List of Talking Heads episodes

"A Chip in the Sugar" is a dramatic monologue written by Alan Bennett in 1987 for television, as part of his Talking Heads series for the BBC. The series became very popular, moving onto BBC Radio, international theatre, becoming one of the best-selling audio book releases of all time and included as part of both the A-level and GCSE English syllabus.[1] It was the first episode of the first series of Talking Heads and the only one which featured Alan Bennett as an actor.


Middle-aged Graham Whittaker, a repressed homosexual with a history of mental health issues, finds life becoming complicated as his mother or "Mam", Vera Whittaker, with whom he still lives, reunites with an old flame named Frank Turnbull. Graham becomes increasingly disturbed when Frank, whose outspoken and right-wing opinions conflict with Graham's muddled liberalism, becomes an ever-increasing influence on Vera, taking her to a "common" café at which Graham notices a chip in the sugar bowl. After a brief courtship, Frank proposes to Vera. It is suggested that Graham moves out of his childhood home and into a hostel. Frank is hiding a secret: he is already married and, despite this, has already proposed to various women before Vera. When Graham finds out, he is vastly relieved and triumphantly confronts his mother with the information. Her hopes of happiness are destroyed, but a safe, stultifying "normality" has been restored in the existence of Graham and his mother.


Many have praised Bennett's portrayal of the character of Graham, with close friend of Bennett; David Tuck saying, "His understanding of a northern English dialect is exemplary."

For his role in the episode, Bennett received a Best Actor nomination at the 1989 BAFTA Awards.

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