I’ve seen Bennett’s monologues on many occasions and quite honestly they are bullet-proof. True, in the wrong hands they can comes across as a mite cosy and of course their mileu is predominantly middle class. But Nicolas Hytner should get the savage measure of them in these new versions of old favourites as well as a couple of new ones. The latter feature the incomparable Monica Dolan in the Shrine playing a woman visiting the site where her husband died in a motorcycle accident and Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman as a mother with an obsessive attachment to her son. The old favourites have been redone with an array of star names from Kristin Scott Thomas and Jodie Cromer to Harriet Walter and Martin Freeman.
Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning Talking Heads monologues first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998. Ten of the original pieces have been re-made with the addition of two new ones written by Bennett last year. They have been produced by Nicholas Hytner for London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader, and will air from Tuesday 23 June on BBC One, with all episodes available on BBC iPlayer on the same date. As the British public service broadcaster, the BBC has a key role to play in continuing to offer new programming for their audience at this time of national crisis. The contained nature of Bennett’s monologues allowed the opportunity to tell timely and relevant stories while following the latest government guidelines on safe working practices during Covid-19.