Alan Bennett’s monologue series Talking Heads has been revived by the BBC, featuring a star-studded cast who all filmed their performances in a deserted studio during lockdown.
Read on for everything you need to know about the cast and the various, iconic monologues they’re performing in Talking Heads.
Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance
What is Her Big Chance about? Jodie Comer plays Lesley, an aspiring actress who believes she’s been cast in a star-making role by a West German filmmaker – until she discovers that the role isn’t all it seems.
Where have I seen Jodie Comer before? The actress is best known for her role as Villanelle, a psychopath assassin, in the BBC drama Killing Eve. She’s also known for roles in Doctor Foster, Thirteen, The White Princess, My Mad Fat Diary, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as Rey’s mother.
Martin Freeman in A Chip in The Sugar
What is A Chip in The Sugar about? Martin Freeman plays Graham, a closeted gay man whose life is thrown into turmoil when his mother – with whom he is exceptionally close – reconnects with an old flame.
Where have I seen Martin Freeman before? The actor played Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit film series, and has starred in The Office (UK version), Black Panther, Breeders, A Confession, and, of course, as Dr John Watson in the BBC series Sherlock, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch.
Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters
What is A Lady of Letters about? Imelda Staunton plays Irene, who regularly sends letters of complaint to her MP, the police, and even the local chemist.
Where have I seen Imelda Staunton before? Recently cast as the next Queen Elizabeth II in the fifth and final season of Netflix’s The Crown, the actress is also well known for roles like Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter film franchise, and starring in the likes of Flesh and Blood, Shakespeare in Love, Nanny McPhee, and Vera Drake.
Tamsin Greig in Nights in The Garden of Spain
What is Nights in The Garden of Spain about? Tamsin Greig plays Rosemary, a lonely woman who has been cultivating a friendship with the vulnerable woman next door, but whose repressed husband wants to move to Marbella.
Where have I seen Tamsin Greig before? Perhaps best known for her comic role as Jackie in Friday Night Dinner, she’s also starred in numerous films and shows, including Belgravia (as Anne Trenchard), Episodes, White Heat, Green Wing, and Shaun of the Dead.
Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman
What is An Ordinary Woman about? Sarah Lancashire plays Gwen, a troubled and complex middle-aged woman, who reflects on her relationship with her son. The monologue is one of Alan Bennett’s two new pieces of writing, penned specifically for this BBC series.
Where have I seen Sarah Lancashire before? You’ll probably recognise Sarah Lancashire for her two best known (but very different) roles, as police officer Catherine in Happy Valley, and as repressed headteacher Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax. She’s also starred in The Accident, MotherFatherSon, and has been cast in the upcoming adaptation of the musical Everyone’s Talking About Jamie.
Lesley Manville in Bed Among The Lentils
What is Bed Among The Lentils about? Lesley Manville plays an alcoholic vicar’s wife, who decides to conduct an affair with a grocer.
Where have I seen Lesley Manville before? Manville was was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2017, for her role in Phantom Thread. She’s also starred in Another Year, Secrets & Lies, Harlots, Mum, and Save Me, among other roles.
Monica Dolan in The Shrine
What is The Shrine about? In Bennett’s second brand new monologue, Monica Dolan plays Lorna, a woman whose husband dies. The monologue’s title refers to the makeshift memorial on a roadside, where people have left flowers and messages.
Where have I seen Monica Dolan before? Dolan’s extensive filmography includes playing Tracy Pritchard in the comedy W1A, and starring the the likes of A Very English Scandal (as Marian Thorpe), Black Mirror, ITV’s Vanity Fair, and Wolf Hall.
Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches
What is Playing Sandwiches about? Lucian Msamati plays Wilfred, a reformed paedophile working as a maintenance man.
Where have I seen Lucian Msamati before? The actor plays John Faa in the BBC/HBO adaptation of His Dark Materials, and Ed Dumani in Gangs of London. He’s previously starred in Kiri, Black Earth Rising, The Good Liar, Taboo, Luther, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and in Game of Thrones (as Salladhor Saan).
Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet
What is Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet about? A lonely, middle-aged woman who feels that something is missing from her life – until she meets her new podiatrist, who is revealed to have a foot fetish.
Where have I seen Maxine Peake before? Peake played Martha Costello QC in the legal drama Silk, and has since starred in Keeping Rosy, The Village, Three Girls (as Sara Rowbotham), Black Mirror (in the episode Metalhead), Peterloo, and The Bisexual (as Sadie).
Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog
What is The Outside Dog about? An obsessively clean housewife who comes to suspect that her abusive husband, who works at a slaughterhouse, is involved in violent crime.
Where have I seen Rochenda Sandall before? Sandall recently played Lisa McQueen in Line of Duty, and has been cast in the upcoming anthology series Small Axe. She’s previously starred in Hatton Garden, Silent Witness, Coronation Street, and Love, Lies and Records.
Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand of God
What is The Hand of God about? An antiques dealer who helps out elderly neighbours so that she can buy their possessions on the cheap when they die. She’s perplexed, however, when she’s bequeathed a drawing of a finger.
Where have I seen Kristen Scott Thomas before? Known for roles in The English Patient, Gosford Park, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, she’s also starred in more recent projects including Military Wives, and in Fleabag season two (in which she played a lesbian businesswoman who shares a drink with Fleabag).
Harriet Walter in Soldiering On
What is Soldiering On about? Harriet Walter plays Muriel, a well-regarded woman in her local community who has found strength in caring for her daughter, who has mental health issues. However, a secret will put Muriel’s strength of will to the test.
Where have I seen Harriet Walter before? Fans of various genres will recognise Walter; perhaps from her recent role as an aristocratic mother in Succession, or from her various period dramas, including the film Sense and Sensibility, and the recent ITV drama Belgravia. She plays Dasha in the third season of Killing Eve, and portrayed Clemmie Churchill on Netflix royal biopic The Crown.
Wondering what the original line-up looked like? We have the original Talking Heads cast list.
Talking Heads will begin 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.
If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.