It was one of the TV highlights of lockdown: the BBC recommissioning Alan Bennett’s landmark 1988 series of dramatic monologues, ‘Talking Heads’, with a new cast that read like a luvvie who’s who decorated with several big thespian cherries. Maxine Peake, Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Harriet Walter, Kristin Scott Thomas…
Now the Bridge Theatre, which worked with the BBC on the 2020 version of ‘Talking Heads’ is planning to bring it to the stage in a series of unique double bills, keeping the cast and directors from eight of the TV series. What’s more, the performances will be appropriately socially distanced, with a nightly audience of 250 punters, and the theatre is offering automatic refunds should any outside factor mean that the season is postponed or cancelled. This is welcome news, though it should be pointed out that the government ruling on when indoor performances can start to take place again in our theatres has chopped and changed a lot over the last few weeks, so the season is still dependant on the rules being relaxed before September.
The small-screen resurrection of ‘Talking Heads’ earlier this year felt timely and appropriate. Bennett’s characters are all in some way trying to square their solitude with an understanding of what an unseen, wider society might mean for them. Their memories are often as important as their current ‘reality’. As we lived our lives through TV and social media, the idea of individual isolation amid a shared communal experience took on an ever-greater resonance. So the fact that a version of it is making it on to a live London theatre stage in September 2020 also feels like a significant new landmark for these storied stories.
The cast and dates for the season are as follows:
Sep 7-22: Monica Dolan in ‘The Shrine’ and Lesley Manville in ‘Bed Among the Lentils’, both directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Sep 9-26: Rochenda Sandall in ‘The Outside Dog’, directed by Nadia Fall, and Kristin Scott Thomas in ‘The Hand of God’, directed by Jonathan Kent.
Sep 28-Oct 31: Lucian Msamati in ‘Playing Sandwiches’, directed by Jeremy Herrin, and Imelda Staunton in ‘A Lady of Letters’, directed by Jonathan Kent.
Sep 30-Oct 24: Tamsin Greig in ‘Nights in the Garden of Spain’, directed by Marianne Elliott, and Maxine Peake in ‘Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet’, directed by Sarah Frankcom.
'Talking Heads’ is at the Bridge Theatre, Sep 7-Oct 31. Full details and tickets here.