How to watch the new and original Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues – and the original line-up

Everything you need to know about which thespians originated the monologues that are now being revived on BBC One.

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Alan Bennett's Talking Heads cast

In one of the more exciting examples of lockdown TV, a selection of the country’s top thespians have come together to record new versions of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues –  which first aired in the late 80’s and have since found their way onto the school syllabus.

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Stars of stage and screen including Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton have performed the monologues, taking over from an equally esteemed group of actors who originally recorded.

All but two of the original monologues are included in the series (A Cream Cracker Under the Settee and Waiting for the Telegram, both originally performed by the late great Thora Hird are the exceptions), while there are also two new monologues performed by Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan.

Here’s all you need to know about who performed the monologues first time round.

How can I watch the original Alan Bennett Talking Heads monologues?

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy – the original monologues aren’t currently available on any streaming platforms or catch-up services, either to buy or to rent.

Therefore your best bet is probably buying the DVD collection, which can be purchased on Amazon and a bunch of other online retailers, while the book containing the scripts of all the monologues is also currently on sale at bookshops.

How to watch the new Talking Heads?

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads begins on BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 23rd June with a double-bill featuring Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters and Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman. All twelve Talking Heads will be available to stream as a boxset on BBC iPlayer.

Check out the full Talking Heads cast.

Who originally performed Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues?

In addition to Thora Hird – who twice won Baftas for her performances – a vast array of stars were called upon by Alan Bennett, including the screenwriter himself.

Both Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet, performed in 2020 by Maxine Peake, and A Lady of Letters, which Imelda Staunton takes on this time round, were originally performed by Patricia Routledge.

Julie Walters
Julie Walters in Her Big Chance
BBC

Another actor to perform not one but two monologues in the original series was Julie Walters, who was the originator of both Her Big Chance and The Outside Dog – with those roles being respectively filled by Jodie Comer and Rochenda Sandall this time out.

Meanwhile Alan Bennett himself was the star of A Chip in the Sugar – playing a part given to Martin Freeman for the reboot, while Maggie Smith played Susan in A Bed Among the Lentils, with that character being portrayed by Lesley Manville for the new series.

Alan Bennett in A Chip in the Sugar
Alan Bennett in A Chip in the Sugar
BBC

Stephanie Cole was the original actor to play Muriel in Soldiering On, with Harriet Walter taking over that role this time, and the part played in the reboot by Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches was originally performed by David Haig.

Finally, Kristin Scott Thomas’ role as Celia in The Hand of God was played by Eileen Atkins first time round, while Penelope Wilton originally starred in Nights in the Gardens of Spain, which the time round features Tamsin Greig.

If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.

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If you want to watch the original series, buy Talking Heads – The Complete Collection on Amazon now.