Talking Heads – BBC iPlayer  

Talking Heads – BBC iPlayer Review by Susan ElkinIt was an inspiration to recreate during lockdown the series of twelve monologues which Alan Bennett wrote for TV in 1998. The original series – and the printed text – will be very familiar to many secondary English and Drama teachers as a way of teaching what monologues, at their best are capable of. They’ve been studied by thousands of students in the last thirty years and have been used for many auditions. 

Perfect material for socially distanced actors and directors, they were filmed in single scene takes on existing sets and actors did their own hair and make-up. Two of the twelve were dropped and Bennett, apparently, produced a couple more which he’d written years ago, not used and more or less forgotten about. One of these was Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman, portraying a mother trying to work out the sexual desire she feels for her own son. It’s profoundly disturbing and Lancashire is thrilling to watch. Of all twelve in the new series, this was the one which really stood out – and every one of them is a gem.

Teachers will be able to create some very informative lessons out of showing students two versions of the same monologue: Jodie Comer’s knowing new take on Her Big Chance compared with the eager naivety of Julie Walters back in 1998 for example. Or how does Martin Freeman’s interpretation of A Chip in the Sugar differ from Bennett’s own? 

Meanwhile watch Harriet Walter as the stalwart widow cheated out of everything by her own son and try not to weep for her and cheer for Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters who, eventually, finds joy in the most unlikely place. 

(If you are able to obtain tickets, the Talking Heads  monologues are now being performed at Bridge Theatre until Oct 31st 

Review by Susan Elkin

Photo credit: BBC