BBC to remake Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues
- Credit: Archant
Primrose Hill neighbours Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner are collaborating again this time on a lockdown project starring Jodie Comer, Tamsin Greig, Imelda Staunton and Martin Freeman
Primrose Hill neighbours Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner are collaborating once again - this time on a lockdown project to film the Talking Heads monologues.
During their long association, the ex National Theatre chief has directed Bennett’s The History Boys, The Madness of George III and a film version of The Lady in The Van.
Hytner has told how the veteran playwright would cycle round to his home and drop his latest unsolicited script through the letterbox.
Now Bennett has written two additions to his Bafta-winning monologues which first aired on TV in 1986, followed by a second series in 1998.
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Hytner is now now remaking them for BBC TV starring many actors from Ham&Highland including Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton.
Sarah Lancashire, Jodie Comer, Tamsin Grieg, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maxine Peake are also part of the stellar line-up.
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The monolgues began filming at Elstree in April under strict social distancing guidelines. Producers say their contained nature not only allows them to be filmed while observing Government safe working practices, but makes them timely and relevant to an isolated nation.
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 twenty and thirty years ago.”
Hytner, who produces and is lead director alongside Josie Rourke, Jeremy Herrin, Marianne Elliott and Jonathan Kent, said: “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. It is a wonderful bonus that two of the 2020 Talking Heads are totally new, written a short time before the current crisis began. Everyone involved has been working in an unprecedented way, rigorously observing social distancing, 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.”
Ranging from a late life love affair, to child abuse, the porn industry and loneliness, the monologues originally starred Maggie Smith, Thora Hird and Patricia Routledge. The latest set, which will air in the coming months, sees Freeman appear in A Chip in the Sugar, the monologue first performed by Bennett, Staunton take the monologue A Lady of Letters, Lesley Manville appear in Bed Among the Lentils, while Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan appear in new monologues An Ordinary Woman and The Shrine.