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First look: Talking Heads to air on BBC One this June

Staff Writer

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Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads will air on BBC One this June, and we’ve got our first image of the impressive cast preparing to bring his monologues back to life.

10 of the original pieces, which which first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998, plus two new monologues by Bennett have been remade at Elstree Studios in recent weeks, allowing the opportunity to tell timely stories in a timely, coronavirus-friendly manner.

Produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader, they star Jodie Comer, Monica Dolan, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Imelda Staunton and Harriet Walter.

Now, we can see each star in character before seeing them action on 23rd June, when the series will premier with a double-bill. All 12 Talking Heads will then be available to stream on BBC iPlayer, with the series continuing on BBC One across the following weeks.

Here’s the full line-up:

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

BBC One remakes Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads

2nd May 2020

The BBC is remaking Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.

During the coronavirus lockdown, production on TV shows and films has ground to a halt but a growing number of broadcasters and creators are finding ways to continue producing new series and dramas, from Channel 4’s daily The Steph Show, streamed live from her living room, to ITV’s Isolation Stories, four shorts that recruited each star’s family members to serve as crew members. With bringing more than one actor together proving a challenge in these social-distancing times, meanwhile, the BBC is turning to Alan Bennett’s iconic monologues to keep viewers entertained. 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. Filming is taking place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets.

10 of the original pieces, which which first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998, will be remade, with the addition of two new ones written by Bennett last year.

Produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader, they will star Jodie Comer, Monica Dolan, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Imelda Staunton and Harriet Walter.

Bennett says: “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.”

Hytner 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 monologues will air on BBC One in the coming months.

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