The London Film Festival is joining with other global festivals to form one giant online event, We Are One. The BBC launched its Culture in Quarantine initiative, providing relevant content across TV, theatre and literature. And ITV is about to release Isolation Stories, a series of four short dramas showing life in lockdown. As if in response to the latter, the BBC has also announced a remake of Alan Bennett’s monological TV series Talking Heads, with the London Theatre Company producing.
Alan Bennett with lead director Nicholas Hytner
The original episodes aired in 1988 and 1998, and featured lone characters talking – at length – about their troubled, absorbing and often bizarre lives. Ten of the original 12 are being re-made, and there will be two new monologues also penned by Bennett (called The Shrine and An Ordinary Woman).
Filming for the new series has begun, with eminent actors performing according to government guidelines, on sets already built. Lead director Nicholas Hytner says of the project: ‘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.’
The cast includes the likes of Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tamsin Greig and Lesley Manville. Comer is especially inspired casting as Lesley in Her Big Chance, a dark tale of an actor shooting a man with a harpoon gun (can anyone else feel the Villanelle vibes?). The list of the cast and the stories can be seen below (provided by the BBC):
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
Given the solitary nature of Bennett’s monologues, this idea is inspired for these times. Maybe culture doesn’t have to come to a crashing halt, after all.
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