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Imelda Staunton. Photo by Charlie Gray

Jodie Comer, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman and more start filming Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 28 April 2020, Last Updated 28 April 2020

A whole host of stars have started filming today, ready for a brand new production of Alan Bennett’s iconic monologue collection, Talking Heads.

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 Walet will all star in this exciting new project.

First aired in 1988 and 1998 on the BBC, 10 of the original monologues will be re-made, along with two brand new pieces written by Alan Bennett last year. The new pieces will be broadcast on BBC One in the next few months.

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.”

Lead Director and Producer Nicholas Hytner 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; 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.”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “Covid-19 has laid waste to drama production in the UK, but it has also posed a challenge: how do we adhere to restrictions while still offering British viewers the chance to lose themselves in great stories at this time of national need? Full of insight, wit, daring and compassion, these are stories of individual lives – but of great resonance. I am so grateful to Alan, Nicholas Hytner, Kevin Loader and the whole team for the caution, ingenuity and wisdom which they have shown in bringing these stories to the screen.”

The full list of monologues 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

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