Alan Bennett has been a household name in Britain ever since he co-authored and starred in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe in 1960. Bennett is not only a prolific playwright (History Boys won both the Laurence Olivier and Tony Awards for “Best Play”) and screenwriter (his screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Oscar), he is also a novelist and a best-selling author of essays and memoirs.
“In England these days, Alan Bennett is increasingly regarded as a national treasure. He’s the literary equivalent of the Queen Mum, or would be if the Queen Mum had also been homosexual, quietly acerbic, a bit of a lefty and a conservative curmudgeon both, and a prose stylist of disarming grace and sly humor.”
— Charles McGrath, The New York Times
Talking Heads are a series of twelve dramatic monologues Bennett wrote for the BBC, six in 1988 and six in 1998. These award-winning one-person plays were praised by critics and so popular with audiences that they have become what one reviewer described as a “British cult classic.” Several of the monologues have been shown on PBS as a part of the Masterpiece Theatre series. So esteemed are the plays that they have been included on both the A-Level and General Cerificate of Secondary Education syllabi for British high school students.
“These extraordinary portraits of ordinary people confirm Alan Bennett’s place as one of the most gifted, versatile, and important writers in the English language.”
— The New York Review of Books
It didn’t take long for Talking Heads to migrate to the stage. West End productions (the British equivalent of Broadway) were mounted in 1992 and 1998, featuring performances by such stars as Maggie Smith and Patricia Routledge. Since then, the monologues, in various combinations, have been produced all over the English-speaking world. In the United States, a critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway production in 2002 – featuring six of the monologues over two evenings – won the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Foreign Play. Originally planned as a limited engagement, this production (featuring Lynn Redgrave) ran for nearly 200 performances and only closed because the stars had other engagements.
“outstanding …. savagely witty and poignant”
– The Scotsman
– Frank Rich, The New York Times
“brilliant cameos …. could scarcely be better …. I don’t know of a funnier Englishman than Alan Bennett”
– John Heilpern, New York Observer
“comical and moving portraits of … ordinary women in crisis”
– Kate Herbert, Melbourne Herald Sun