A Cream Cracker under the Settee
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|"A Cream Cracker under the Settee"|
|Talking Heads episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Stuart Burge|
|Written by||Alan Bennett|
|Produced by||Innes Lloyd|
|Original air date||24 May 1988|
|Running time||35 Minutes|
"A Cream Cracker Under The Settee" 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. It was the sixth and final episode of the first series of Talking Heads.
"A Cream Cracker under the Settee" is played out as a monologue by Doris (Thora Hird), a seventy-five-year-old woman who is a widow, following her slip off a pouffe (pronounced 'buffet' in the play). Her disapproval of home-helper Zulema's cleaning leads her to attempt to clean a picture of her and Wilfred, her late husband, and subsequently her fall. Her position, now suffering from a "numby" leg, gives her natural desire to find help. Thus she moves from her position on a chair, to the floor near where she fell, and finally to the front door of her house. An exhausted Doris drags herself back to the living room after failing to get help from the front door. Eventually she hears the voice of a policeman, asking if she is all right because - unusually - her lights are off. Instead of asking for his help she lets him leave after telling him she was napping. It is assumed by the situation, and by the fact that the conclusions to Bennett's plays are typically bleak, that Doris later dies. Throughout the monologue she discusses past issues and events in her life, characters and situations. Use of juxtaposition of humour and sadness is used frequently by Alan Bennett, as it is in many of the Talking Heads monologues to great effect. Such effects include the interaction of passing time. The televised monologue gives the impression of a dark evening as the end of her life is suggested; the passing of time reflecting the passing of her life. Furthermore, the moving from the relatively comfy position of her chair - where she is sitting at the start - possibly indicates the movement from a secure and comfy position in life to her current situation. Issues such as treatment of the aged, growing old and life choices are constantly discussed throughout the monologue.
The episode was well received and picked up three nominations at the 1989 BAFTA Awards. Thora Hird won the award for Best Actress ahead of two other actresses from Talking Heads episodes, Patricia Routledge (A Lady of Letters) and Dame Maggie Smith (A Bed Among the Lentils). It was also nominated for Best Drama Series and Best Video Lighting.