Peake and Frankcom put their Talking Heads together

Published: 29 April 2020
Reporter: David Upton

Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner Credit: Manuel Harlan
Talking Heads 2020 cast

Maxine Peake and director Sarah Frankcom rekindle their Manchester Royal Exchange relationship when writer Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues reappear on the BBC later this year.

Peake appeared in several Exchange productions and became an associate artist at the time Frankcom was artistic director. Together they will bring Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet back to the small screen after it first appeared in 1988 with Patricia Routledge.

They are among an illustrious theatrical line-up paying homage to Bennett's miniature masterpieces for the 12-part series, which also includes two brand new monologues. Jodie Comer, Sarah Lancashire, Martin Freeman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton are among those appearing in productions directed by Josie Rourke, Nicholas Hytner, Marianne Elliott and Jonathan Kent amongst others.

Bennett said, “in such difficult circumstances, that the BBC should choose to remount both series of Talking Heads, and produce two entirely new ones, is a comfort and a huge compliment. I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did 20 and 30 years ago.”

The new series is produced by Hytner—with whom Bennett enjoyed several successes at the National Theatre, not least among them The History Boys—and Kevin Loader, with the monologues to be aired “in the coming months”.

“COVID-19 has laid waste to drama production in the UK, but it has also posed a challenge: how do we adhere to restrictions while still offering British viewers the chance to lose themselves in great stories at this time of national need?” added BBC Controller of Drama, Piers Wenger.

“Full of insight, wit, daring and compassion, these are stories of individual lives—but of great resonance. I am so grateful to Alan, Nicholas Hytner, Kevin Loader and the whole team for the caution, ingenuity and wisdom which they have shown in bringing these stories to the screen.”

The full list is:

  • Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance (1988), directed by Josie Rourke
  • Monica Dolan in The Shrine (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • Martin Freeman in A Chip in the Sugar (1988), directed by Jeremy Herrin
  • Tamsin Greig in Nights in the Garden of Spain (1998), directed by Marianne Elliott
  • Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • Lesley Manville in Bed Among the Lentils (1988), directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches (1998), directed by Jeremy Herrin
  • Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet (1988), directed by Sarah Frankcom
  • Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog (1998), directed by Nadia Fall
  • Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand of God (1998), directed by Jonathan Kent
  • Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters (1988), directed by Jonathan Kent
  • Harriet Walter in Soldiering On (1988), directed by Marianne Elliott