Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Kristin Scott Thomas and Imelda Staunton are among the stars lined up for new BBC One adaptations of playwright Alan Bennett’s acclaimed “Talking Heads” monologues, which start filming Tuesday.
Ten of the original pieces are being remade, having first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998, winning two BAFTA awards. Two new monologues, written by Bennett last year, are also being filmed.
The contained nature of Bennett’s monologues means they are one of the very few dramas that can be produced while following guidelines on safe working practices during COVID-19. Filming is taking place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets.
They are produced by former National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ producer Kevin Loader.
Lead director Hytner, whose film credits include “The Madness of King George” and “The History Boys,” said: “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.”
Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, added: “COVID-19 has laid waste to drama production in the U.K., 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.”
The full line up of stars taking part in the new adaptations are: 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 (L-R, above).
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 20 and 30 years ago.”
The monologues, which will air on BBC One in the coming months, are 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; and Harriet Walter in “Soldiering On” (1988), directed by Marianne Elliott.
“Talking Heads” will be produced by London Theatre Company for BBC One, with BBC Studios providing the studios facilities. The series is co-produced by Steve Clark Hall.
Executive producers are Nick Starr and Anthony Jones for LTC, and Piers Wenger for the BBC. The series has been commissioned by Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content.
The original “Talking Heads” monologues had a stellar cast including Patricia Routledge, Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Julie Walters, Thora Hird, Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Penelope Wilton, alongside Bennett himself.