|Index||3 reviews in total|
'The Habit of Art' is the fourth in the current National Theatre live
broadcast series, allowing those of us not in London to see the
performances direct from the theatre. This is the third and the best I
have seen. Apart from the unfortunate replacement of Michael Gambon
(through illness, I understand) with Richard Griffiths, who was
excellent but Gambon would have been better, there is absolutely
nothing to quibble about. The play itself is brilliant: a multi-layered
postmodern masterpiece, centred on a meeting between poet WH Auden and
composer Benjamin Britten (Alex Jennings) in 1972, some 30 years after
the failure of the opera they wrote together. But the play is not just
about this meeting; it is a rehearsal of the play, so includes the
stage manager - a brilliant Frances de la Tour - who steps in
occasionally to read the part for an absent actor, the writer, who must
field complaints about his play, and even a casual walk on from another
play being performed elsewhere in the theatre complex.
Because of the intimate nature of the production, it is easily accommodated to the cameras filming the stage - much better than the earlier productions - and indeed, much thought and work have clearly gone into the filming so it is seamless and unobtrusive.
This is a play about art - the art of poetry, the art of music, the art of theatre and playwriting, and of acting. It is incredibly funny and always engrossing. If these broadcasts are ever made available on DVD, don't hesitate.
It is truly marvellous. A triumph.
I really did not expect to be so affected by this play, on screen, from
the National Theatre Live series. It was breathtaking. I honestly have
never seen another show in which everyone seemed so completely on and
every aspect worked seamlessly. The acting was perfection, my heart
tried keeping beat with the impeccable timing and I left the theater
feeling I had seen the best play of my life. I see a lot of plays and I
have not even begun to doubt that feeling.
The Habit of Art is deeply moving, enlightening, hilarious and, best of all, honest. I knew little going in. I won't spoil it for you with details.
anyone who has ever worked on an original script will cherish this play by Alan Bennett, who has now been added to my short list of heroes: Mike Nichols, David Simon, Meryl Streep, Horton Foote, Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith. Who do you know that can make Beyond The Fringe, Prick Up Your Ears, Talking Heads, The History Boys and then this one? With recent plays like Red and Circle Mirror Transformation, watching the habit of artists at work can be and should be peeking at our own humanity. Even plays and movies like Noises Off, My Favorite Year and the wonderful Bullets Over Broadway give us this great extra level of actors being actors being the comic pageant that is humanity. Shakespeare's mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus & Thisbe would approve. If the National Theatre does not release The Habit Of Art on DVD for all of us who love dramatic storytelling, then it will be a crime against humanity.
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