THE 2020 series of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads has certainly got people talking, with its controversial stories and all-star cast.
But this is the second time around the monologues have been performed for TV.
When did Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads first air?
The first series of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads originally aired in 1988 on BBC One, and was also adapted for Radio 4.
A second series of the show was produced for BBC Two in 1998.
The monologues themselves have also featured on GCSE and A-level syllabuses.
The original series was nominated for 10 Bafta TV Awards back in 1989, winning Thora Hird the prize for best actress for her role in A Cream Cracker Under The Settee.
Who was in the cast of the original Talking Heads?
Season 1 (1988)
Alan Bennett – A Chip In The Sugar
Talking Heads Alan took on the role of middle-aged Graham Whittaker.
He is a repressed homosexual with a history of mental health issues, finds life becoming complicated as his mother or “Mam”, Vera Whittaker, with whom he still lives, reunites with an old flame named Frank Turnbull.
Graham becomes increasingly disturbed when Frank, whose outspoken and right-wing opinions conflict with Graham’s muddled liberalism, becomes an ever-increasing influence on Vera, taking her to a “common” café at which Graham notices a chip in the sugar bowl.
Alan has also starred in Lady In A Van and The Wind And The Willows.
Patricia Routledge – A Lady Of Letters
Patricia played Irene Ruddock, a single, middle-aged woman living near Bradford who is not afraid to speak, or rather write, her mind.
She frequently writes to her MP, the police, the chemist – everyone she can, to remedy the social ills she sees around her.
But things take a turn for the worst when Irene becomes suspicious of a neighbouring couple whom she suspects of neglecting their child.
Patricia is best known for playing hyacinth bucket in keeping Up Appearances.
Maggie Smith – Bed Among The Lentils
Maggie took on Bed Among The Lentils.
The story is about a vicar’s wife called Susan who turns to alcohol to numb her boredom.
She then ends up having a romance with a local shopkeeper where she buys her sherry.
Dame Maggie has had an incredible career, but these days she is best known for starring in Downton Abbey.
Stephanie Cole – Soldiering On
Stephanie played Muriel, who is a strong woman, and always has been – a pillar of the community, a regular charity worker, and a volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
She also looks after her mentally ill daughter, Margaret.
However, given her son’s ineptitude (or dishonesty) with money, and the vile secret behind Margaret’s illness, Muriel finds that she needs to adapt in order to “soldier on”.
Actress Stephanie is known for Waiting For God and Doc Martin.
Julie Walters – Her Big Chance
The story follows Lesley, an aspiring actress, who, after a series of unpromising extra roles on television programmes, is offered what she believes to be her big break as the adventurous Travis in a new film for the West German market.
It is not clear to what extent Lesley understands that she is appearing in a soft porn film.
Actress Julie is a known for Harry Potter and Mamma Mia.
Thora Hird – A Cream Cracker Under The Settee
Thora played Doris, a seventy-five-year-old woman who is a widow, who suffers a slip while dusting.
Her disapproval of home-helper Zulema’s cleaning leads her to attempt to clean a picture of her and Wilfred, her late husband, and subsequently her fall.
The late Thora Hird was known for Last Of The Summer Wine.
Season Two (1998)
Patricia Routledge – Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet
Patricia played Miss Fozzard, who is a lonely, middle-aged department store clerk in Soft Furnishings whose free time is mostly spent caring for her brother after he suffers a stroke.
Her one joy is visiting her podiatrist, but when he retires, she finds her life consumed with a burgeoning relationship with his replacement, Mr Dunderdale, who is a decidedly kinky fellow with an all-consuming foot fetish.
While Miss Fozzard would be the last to admit it, she ventures into benign prostitution as she allows her new podiatrist to pay her to model a variety of footwear while also indulging in other activities.
Eileen Atkins – The Hand Of God
Eileen played Celia, who is a covetous antiques dealer who brazenly aids elderly neighbours for the sole purpose of being in a good position to buy their treasures on the cheap when they die.
She’s particularly put out when one elderly woman whom she’s visited, living in a house chock full of antiques, dies and leaves everything to a distant Canadian relative.
Actress Eileen is known for Upstairs, Downstairs.
David Haig – Playing Sandwiches
David played Wilfred, who we discover over time, is a reformed paedophile living under a false identity and working as a much-praised maintenance man in a public park.
However, as a superior begins to pressure him for bureaucratic historical information to include in his personnel file, the pressure causes Wilfred to resume his old ways with horrifying results.
Actor David is known for Four Weddings And A Funeral
Julie Walters – The Outside Dog
Julie played clean freak Marjory, who gradually comes to realise that her husband, Stuart, who works in a slaughterhouse, is using his employment to cover the fact that he’s a particularly dangerous criminal.
He regularly goes out with his Alsatian, Tina, (whom Marjory has barred from entering the house), and returns late at night.
This usually culminates in brutal sexual advances which Marjory finds distasteful but feels powerless to reject.
Penelope Wilton – Nights In The Garden Of Spain
Penelope plays Rosemary Horrocks – a lonely woman whose husband is intent on moving them both to Marbella.
Unknown to him, Rosemary does not wish to go.
She takes it upon herself to tend to a neighbour’s garden after the latter is arrested for murdering her abusive husband.
The two women become close friends in a tender relationship which has the potential to bring both of them real happiness.
In the original series the role was played by Penelope Wilton.
Penelope is known for starring in Downton Abbey.
How can watch Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads 2020?
The next episode is on BBC One TONIGHT (June 29, 2020).
You can catch it at 9pm.
If you can’t wait until then, all 12 episodes are on the iPlayer now.