The Habit of Art (The National Theatre, 1st May 2010)

I liked The Habit of Art because I am normally interested in plays which explore the process of putting on a play.  When the audience enters the auditorium they are faced with a very cluttered set.  What becomes clear is that this is a set within a set.  In the middle is a desk with piles of books around it and there is a typewriter stuffed underneath. Surrounding this are kitchen facilities, mixing desks and office desks.  It becomes clear that this is the backstage area surrounding the set of another play.  There is also an elevated area with a piano which become Benjamin Britten’s rooms.  The play we are about to watch is actually a rehearsal of a play.

The experience is like, to use the cliché, peeling an onion to reveal the layers.  The play is about the relationship between Benjamin Britten (Alex Jennings/Henry) and WH Auden (Richard Griffiths/Fitz) as seen through the eyes of their biographer Humphrey Carpenter/Tim (Adrian Scarborough).  However, the characters seem to reveal a little of themselves through the characters they play.  Kay, the stage manager, (Frances De La Tour) seems to be able to keep it all together as Fitz, and Henry try to make sense of the play they are in and Tim desperately needs some direction to be able to grasp the role he plays.

The play is funny and engaging.


Habit of Art in The Guardian
Habit of Art in The Telegraph

Alan Bennett Habit of Art National Theatre

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