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Talking Heads set for TV return


By David Porter

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A new productions of Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning Talking Heads monologues, which first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998 will air on BBC One from Tuesday June 23.

Jodie Comer in Talking Heads
Jodie Comer in Talking Heads

Opening with a double bill all twelve Talking Heads will then be available to stream on BBC iPlayer, with the series continuing on BBC One across the following weeks.

Ten of the original pieces have been remade with the addition of two new ones written by Bennett last year.

The contained nature of Bennett's monologues allowed the opportunity to tell timely and relevant stories while following the latest government guidelines on safe working practices during Covid-19.

Alan Bennett said: "In such difficult circumstances, that the BBC should choose to remount both series of Talking Heads, and produce two entirely new ones, is a comfort and a huge compliment.

"I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did 20 and 30 years ago."

Nicholas Hytner, Bennett's long-term collaborator and Lead Director and Producer, says: "Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads are among the masterworks of one of the very greatest writers in TV, film and theatre history.

"It has been a profound and fascinating experience to work out a way of making them again, this time with a company of phenomenal actors who are the equal of those who first made them; with a group of leading theatre directors, colleagues and friends of long standing; and with a team behind the camera that represents the best of the British TV and film industries.

"It is a wonderful bonus that two of the 2020 Talking Heads are totally new, written only a short time before the current crisis began.

"Everyone involved has been working in an unprecedented way, rigorously observing social distancing, entirely rethinking ways of filmmaking that until a few weeks ago seemed routine.

"The shoot will never bring any of us within touching distance of each other, but I hope that in every other way it will reach out and touch millions of viewers.

"We are all of us beyond grateful to the BBC for setting us this challenge."

The Talking Heads monologues were first broadcast on the BBC in 1988 and 1998, breaking new ground for television, and widely celebrated as Alan Bennett’s masterpieces.

They had a stellar cast including Patricia Routledge, Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Julie Walters, Thora Hird, Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Penelope Wilton, alongside Bennett himself.

The monologues won two Baftas, an RTS award and have also since been included on the A-level and GCSE English Literature syllabus.

The monologues which will air on BBC One in the coming months are as follows, in alphabetical order:

Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance (1988), directed by Josie Rourke

Monica Dolan in The Shrine (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner

Martin Freeman in A Chip In The Sugar (1988), directed by Jeremy Herrin

Tamsin Greig in Nights In The Garden of Spain (1998), directed by Marianne Elliott

Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner

Lesley Manville in Bed Among The Lentils (1988), directed by Nicholas Hytner

Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches (1998), directed by Jeremy Herrin

Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet (1988), directed by Sarah Frankcom

Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog (1998), directed by Nadia Fall

Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand Of God (1998), directed by Jonathan Kent

Imelda Staunton in A Lady Of Letters (1988), directed by Jonathan Kent

Harriet Walter in Soldiering On (1988), directed by Marianne Elliott


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