'Talking Heads' was originally written by Alan Bennett for BBC Television in the 1980s and 1990s. Whilst it has been revamped in lockdown for TV viewers featuring two new scripts, The Reading Den is delighted to find an excuse to revisit this much-loved collection of monologues. Watching them first is the best way to appreciate this collection.

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TALKING HEADS

BY ALAN BENNETT

266 pages

‘Talking heads’ is a synonym in television for boredom but this is by no means a boring read and as the talented Alan Bennett explains each monologue is a ‘stripped down version of a short story, the style of its telling is austere.’ But his choice of words, pauses and reading between the lines is simply brilliant. As we have all been challenged for months in a bubble or maybe alone, this is the definitive Book Of The Moment. Watching the episodes on TV first (if you can find the time) is the best way to enjoy the collection as you can appreciate Bennett’s enlightening commentary. Either way, 'Talking Heads' is razer sharp and a delight to read.

There are 13 monologues in 'Talking Heads' covering the two original television series (plus a one off) which was first aired in the '80s with a further series commissioned in the '90s. Not all of the monologues have been revisited by the BBC this summer but the scripts with commentary from Bennett add wonderful ‘behind the scenes’ texture to the characters and the stories.

Everyone will have their favourite story be it ‘A Lady of Letters’, ‘Her Big Chance’, ‘Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet’, ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ and so forth. We will also have our own preferred star actors whether it’s Jodie Comer or Julie Walters in ‘Her Big Chance’, Lesley Manville or Maggie Smith in ‘Bed Among The Lentils’, Kristen Scott Thomas or Eileen Atkins in ‘The Hands of God'. The star-studded productions (the original vs the new) and Bennett's acerbic wit and humour in his storytelling of the 'everyday moments' is what makes it the perfect book club read. Whilst the scripts remain fresh and relevant with so many touchstones, we can also recognise a very different Middle England with vicars and cardigan clad pensioners and repressed housewives. You’ll need an extended meet with your friends to dissect and enjoy the moments. All of this provided huge talkability in book club, as well as a nostalgic wonder down memory lane. Perfect for those who have lost their appetite for the ‘big read’.

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