Talking Heads

Rating 7.9
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 12 x 35 mins

We’re going full theatrical in this Must as a revival of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads sees fine actors doing what they love most: offering long, uninterrupted monologues. It’s a very starry cast, with superb writing and brilliant performances. The critics are hugely impressed.

Talking Heads features a roster of top-tier talent, including Jodie Comer, Kristin Scott Thomas and Martin Freeman. In The Times Hugo Rifkind is sceptical that this is the time for a remake, but “the writing is brilliant. Of course it’s brilliant. It’s Alan bloody Bennett. Adult Jackanory this may be, but nobody spins a better tale. Characters establish themselves within seconds, and whole subplots arrive, rise, fall and go away again in the space of half a clause.” He reckons the original Talking Heads from 1988 inspired generations of subsequent TV shows. “There are, here, the seeds of everything, from Nighty Night, to The Office, to a thousand points beyond. But it’s hard to enjoy the seeds fully when you’ve already seen them sprout.”

The Telegraph’s Anita Singh says, “It is easy to forget that Alan Bennett does darkness.” And cautions that this is a series of monologues “in which outwardly respectable people reveal their inner thoughts, and some of them can take your breath away.” She concludes that the plays, directed by Nicholas Hytner, are “perfectly suited to socially distanced filming, and lockdown is providing plenty of time for introspection.”

Ed Power in the Independent says “be warned, in the first two episodes at least, the misery truly is of the high caffeine, black tea and burnt toast variety. Dead children, mental illness and incest all crop up.” Imelda Staunton and Sarah Lancashire perform Bennett’s monologues “with a fervour that sand-blasts the soul. You may feel the need for an extended solitary walk afterwards, which is awkward given that popping out for some air isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.”

We can’t promise it will fun throughout, but Talking Heads is riveting stuff. And if you want a change of scene from the monster budgets of many of the streamers’ shows, then a series where actors are left to do their best work without any distractions is a prospect to relish.

First shown June 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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