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The Observer - The New Review - - Agenda - Mon­ica Dolan

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

1. TV

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.

2. The­atre

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.

3. Doc­u­men­tary

David Bowie: The Last

Five Years

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.

4. Pod­cast

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.

5. Film

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.

6. Twit­ter


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.

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