On my radar
Actor Monica Dolan on her cultural highlights
Actor Monica Dolan was born in 1969 in Middlesbrough and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She starred in all three series of the BBC comedy W1A and in 2011 she won a Bafta for best supporting actress for her role as Rosemary West in Appropriate Adult. Next, Dolan plays Lorna in the new version of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, which airs on BBC One on Thursday 9 July and is on BBC iPlayer now. Kadish Morris
Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe, BBC Two
This is political satire that is second to none. Brooker takes us from the first moments we heard about coronavirus right up until the programme came out. He analyses the political and medical response to it. It’s not glib, it’s very layered. Somehow, he manages to do it without being insensitive. Oddly, it gave me a sort of security. We’re in the middle of this, so there isn’t any hindsight, so to have someone you’re familiar with, who’s so clever, be able to provide a bit of context and describe the situation in such an objective way is quite extraordinary.
The Encounter, by Simon McBurney
The essence of theatre is that we are all in the same room and breathing the same air, which unfortunately we can’t do right now, but a show that really works online is The Encounter. It’s a mindblowing story about a photographer who gets stranded in the Amazon. McBurney works closely with the sound technicians and the show feels very live because he uses a binaural microphone to create different worlds. You feel like the sound is going on all around you. It gives you the feeling of being immersed.
David Bowie: The Last
Whenever you watch a music documentary, it teaches you so much about what was going on at the time. Music reacts in a very visceral way. There’s a wonderful part in this documentary with Rick Wakeman talking about when David Bowie first came to him with his 12-string guitar and said “Listen to this”, and started playing Life on Mars. It was so wonderful seeing Wakeman trying to remember the chords and explain why they were unusual and brilliant.
Hidden Brain: An Unfinished Lesson
This podcast is about the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and what we can learn from the outbreak and our infrastructure. It features a historian called Nancy Bristow, who has written a book called American Pandemic that’s all about the Spanish flu, which actually originated in America and travelled across the world through the soldiers. Woodrow Wilson didn’t want to talk about it publicly [because he was worried about diverting minds from the war effort]. From a propaganda point of view, it really connects to now.
The Square (directed by Ruben Östlund)
This came out in 2017 and I don’t know why it didn’t win absolutely everything. It’s extremely funny. It’s the most fascinating film about trust and responsibility – the trust between a person making a work of art, the people displaying the work and the people receiving it. A notion I’m interested in is the animal in us, and what makes us civilised. Are we civilised or are we just sophisticated? That makes it not sound funny, but it’s brilliantly directed. It really stayed with me.
There’s a character called Diane Chorley, the Duchess of Canvey, who has an absolutely hilarious Twitter feed. Every day, you see a little clip of what she’s doing during lockdown and how she’s handling it. Often she’s on the phone to her friend Hazel or to the pizza place. She’s very quick thinking and highly irreverent and I love it. Ordinarily, Chorley [the alter ego of David Selley] does a lot of work at Soho theatre, wonderful shows with music, but these little Twitter films I’ve really enjoyed, particularly one called Calpol.