Filming begins April 28 on new productions of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologue collection, which debuted on BBC TV in 1988 and 1998. Ten of the original pieces will be re-made, with the addition of two new ones that Bennett wrote last year.
Produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader, the series will air in the coming months on BBC One.
The series will feature Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance, directed by Josie Rourke; Monica Dolan in The Shrine, directed by Hytner; Martin Freeman in A Chip in the Sugar, directed by Jeremy Herrin; Tamsin Greig in Nights in the Garden of Spain, directed by Marianne Elliott; Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman, directed by Hytner; Lesley Manville in Bed Among the Lentils, directed by Hytner; Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches, directed by Herrin; Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet, directed by Sarah Frankcom; Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog, directed by Nadia Fall; Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand of God, directed by Jonathan Kent; Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters, directed by Kent; and Harriet Walter in Soldiering On, directed by Elliott.
"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," said Bennett. "I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did 20 and 30 years ago."
Hytner added, "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."
The Talking Heads monologues originally featured 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 and an RTS Award.
Filming is taking place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets under the U.K.'s public health guidelines in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.