Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads returns to BBC One in June 2020 but where was the new series filmed and was it made during lockdown?

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a number of unprecedented effects on the way we live our lives.

Thanks to the nationwide lockdown that was imposed on March 23rd, millions of us were forced to stay and work from home.

That meant that a lot of TV and film productions had to be put on hold.

However, on June 23rd, a new series is arriving on BBC One that was made entirely during the recent lockdown.

That series is an updated version of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.

Talking Heads: Trailer – BBC

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Talking Heads: Trailer – BBC
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Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads on the BBC

Beginning at 9pm on BBC One on Tuesday, June 23rd, Talking Heads is a modern adaptation of the Alan Bennett monologue films of the 1980s and 90s.

Jodie Comer, Imelda Staunton and Martin Freeman star in new versions of Her Big Chance, A Chip in the Sugar and A Lady of Letters respectively.

However, for this 2020 version, two new monologues have been included, An Ordinary Woman and The Shrine which are performed by Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan.

BBC

Where was Talking Heads filmed?

  • Talking Heads was filmed at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

As only a limited number of cast and crew members could work on the series, existing sets and facilities were used at Elstree in order to film each of the 12 episodes.

Much of what was filmed took place on disused sets for EastEnders which had to postpone filming when the lockdown came into force in March.

BBC

How the series was made during lockdown

The story of how this new edition of Talking Heads came around can be found in a BBC interview with Nicholas Hytner prior to the series’ release.

Nicholas Hytner is a director and has worked with Alan Bennett, the writer of the Talking Heads monologues, for more than three decades.

Speaking to ahead of the launch of the series, Hytner explained: “Piers Wenger, the BBC’s Head of Drama, called me on the evening of 26 March, ten days after all the theatres – including my own, the Bridge Theatre – closed.

“He said that BBC drama production had halted, that the only films they could imagine making were monologues, and that he’d remembered Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.”

It was a painstaking process but a cast, crew and location had to be found in only a few weeks.

Hytner continued: “Without thinking, I said yes, and started calling all the people who could tell me how to do it.”

Once a star-studded cast and crew were assembled, filming became another huge challenge for the Talking Heads remake.

“The challenges were no different from anyone else’s in the post-virus world,” Hytner said, “The sets all needed refurnishing and redressing, but nothing could be done that couldn’t be done by one person, or one person with a trolley.”

“Zac Nicholson, the extraordinary Director of Photography, couldn’t use many of the routine tools of his trade.

“Many of the sets were familiar to regular viewers of EastEnders, so they had to be made strange and new again through the way they were lit.”

It is certainly a surprise to see Talking Heads back on our screens again but with the cast that’s been assembled, it sure is a welcome one.

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads begins airing at 9pm on BBC One on Tuesday, June 23rd while the full 12-episode series is available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.