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Series / Alan Bennett's Talking Heads

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Talking Heads (1988) and Talking Heads 2 (1998) are two series of six half-hour monologues by British playwright Alan Bennett. There are two slightly different versions of each one, radio and televison. Also Bennett created a monologue called A Woman of No Importance in 1982, which could be seen as the pilot for the series using the same blocking and style, in fact it is often added to the book.

Some surprisingly dark subject matter, especially in series two which includes a paedophile falling off the wagon, a serial killer who gets away with it and a non-con BDSM club whose victim finally snaps and shoots her abusive husband.


The Monologues are:

  • A Woman of No Importance: Peggy an office worker who sees herself as the backbone of the place is hospitalised, she realises due to the lack of visitors that she wasn't the figurehead she felt she was.

Series One Screened in 1988

  • A Chip in the Sugar: Middle-aged Graham lives with his elderly Mother and lives a strict routine, however an old flame of his Mother's appears causing trouble and just as they prepare for a late marriage Graham discovers the old man's truth at the cost of his Mother's happiness.
  • A Lady of Letters: Irene writes to anybody to raise her complaints, what she sees as a chance to improve or help the police, however, she has gone too far with her latest letter resulting in a spell at prison but she makes good of a bad situation.
  • Bed Among the Lentils: Susan is the unhappy alcoholic wife of a Vicar who has a 'fan club' of older women that he focusing more of his time on. Susan goes to Leeds to buy her drink and it's there she finds her escape with an understanding Asian Greengrocer whom she has a small affiar.
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  • Soldiering On: Muriel, a pillar of her community has always learnt to adapt, newly widowed, she hopes she can carry on regardless, but after trusting her son changes her situation resulting in her losing her home and leaving her poor she still thinks nothing bad of the situation.
  • Her Big Chance: Lesley an actress has only minor credits as extras, finally gets a big role in a movie, as she makes the film and then returns home it's clear to the viewer that she has starred in a Softcore Porno.
  • A Cream Cracker under the Settee: Doris an old woman with OCD has fallen after trying to clean, she tries to get help, thinking back to the past and realising that even with proof her home help isn't cleaning up like she wants, she would be sent to an old folks home so she prefers to die.

Series Two Screened in 1998

  • Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet: Miss Fozzard a lonely middle-aged woman is caring for her stoke ridden brother, her only escape is her "foot fella" but after she gets a new one, he shows a fetish and after her brother gets broke after overpaying the carer Miss Fozzard finds escape with her podiatrist.
  • The Hand of God: Celia owns a antique shop and she gets close to older neighbours, so she can get something from their grand houses. After her latest one has a relative who has the lot Celia only gets a box of "junk". However, after one of the said junk turns out to be a Michelangelo study for the Sistine Chapel she is made a fool by the media and nothing is sold in her beloved shop.
  • Playing Sandwiches:Wilfred is a park maintenance man with a good working skill, however, he hides a dark secret he's a paedophile who is trying to be on the straight and narrow, the stress of his superior for personal information to add into his file and the friendship of a mother and her daughther results in him giving in and he is fired and arrested in jail he reflects on his flaws.
  • The Outside Dog: Marjory a clean freak as the story goes on discovers that her husband Stuart is up to something, she is annoyed he owns a dog which is never allowed in. Stuart is highly sexual and after coming home regularly makes love. When he is arrested as a murderer Marjory tries to carry on, only then she finds proof she gives into the request that the dog is allowed in when he is acquitted due to lack of evidence.
  • Nights in the Gardens of Spain:Rosemary a golf widow befriends a neighbour who killed her husband after years of being used as a sex slave Rosemary finds that her husband might have been involved and before she gains enough confidence to leave her husband her friend dies and she is trapped in Spain for the remainder of her life.
  • Waiting for the Telegram: Violet is confused after having a stroke and her memories come and goes, she can't remember her son and when told she will be receiving a telegram from the Queen, she remembers a sad moment from the past. As she reflects on this story to her only friend a gay nurse called Francis she notices the AIDS that will kill him soon.

Tropes Used:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Susan might still be married to a vicar and her Asian lover has moved away to a better shop and to bring his young bride to the UK, but she's going to AA and her husband is focusing more on her than the 'Fan Club'. Irene might be in jail but she has learnt skills that means a early release and a second chance in life.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Doris, who chooses not to alert a visitor to the fact that she has fallen and is badly hurt, evidently preferring this to an undignified existence in a nursing home which, she fears, would probably kill her anyway.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Lesley.
  • Darker and Edgier: Series Two.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Stuart's victims.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Winfred in Playing Sandwichs, ends up back in jail due to his paedophilia, he reflects on it by saying
    Winfred: It's the one part of my life that feels right... and that's the bit that's wrong.
  • Downer Ending: It's Alan Bennett's most believable trope.
  • During the War: Violet’s clearest recollections.
  • Eat the Evidence: Doris finds the cream cracker the home-help did a bad job (in her mind) however due to her mind going places due to the broken hip she eats the Cracker and even remarks this trope when she realises it.
  • Gold Digger: Celia. And then there's Mallory Malloy.
  • Heel Realization: Miss Fozzard when she realises talking about her kinky podiatrist has been used against her by her work colleague and her brother.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Possibly Lesley, who may or not realise that she is starring in porn.
    • Muriel in Soldiering On, who naively doesn't understand her son's mismanagement of her money until it is too late.
  • Last-Name Basis: Miss Fozzard’s first name is never mentioned.
  • My God, What Have I Done??: Irene has this moment when arrested after she realised her letters have been sent to a family whose child has died of cancer was unwanted harassment. Marjory has one at the end when she aided her killer husband in hiding evidence and is forced to bring the outside dog indoors.
  • Oop North: Most (but not all) episodes.
  • Porn Stash: Graham has one and doesn't know his mother knows about it.
  • Really Gets Around: Lesley. Oddly, she doesn’t seem to realise it.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The windows of the house in Marbella look more like the kind you would see in a prison.
  • Shout-Out: Lesley’s cheap European soft-porn film is obviously a cheap European rip-off of the James Bond film Thunderball.
  • Spin-Off: Ladies of Letters, a Radio 4 and later ITV series, following Irene from A Lady of Letters and her friend Vera.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Wilfred.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Francis the nurse dies of HIV related pneumonia.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The characters often don’t see what the audience does.
  • Villain Protagonist: Celia, who befriends a terminally ill old lady that she barely knows so that she can get all her swag when she dies.
  • Wham Line: At least one per episode.


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