Filming is now underway for new productions of Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning Talking Heads monologues.
Having first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998, ten original pieces of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues will be re-made with the addition of two new ones written by Bennett last year. They are being produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader and are set to air in the coming months on the BBC.
Talking about the news, 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 twenty and thirty years ago.”
The Talking Heads monologues when originally premiered on the BBC featured a 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.
This time around the monologues airing on the BBC will be as follows:
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
Filming for each monologue is taking place at the BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets. The Talking Heads production team are following the latest government guidelines on Covid-19 to ensure that the series is made safely and responsibly.
Nicholas Hytner said: “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. And 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.”