Alan Bennett

Definition

Theater

  • (1934 - ) British actor and playwright, whofirst came to prominence as a star of the Oxbridge revueBeyond the Fringe. His reputation was firmly establishedwith the success of his first play Forty Years On (1968), inwhich John Gielgud starred as the retiring headmaster of a minor publicschool. Getting On (1971) investigated the disillusionmentof a Labour MP, while Habeas Corpus (1973), with Alec Guinness,was a farcical exposure of British sexual inhibitions. The OldCountry (1977), again with Guinness, portrayed a British spy exiledin the Soviet Union.

    Bennett consolidated his reputation as a keen observer ofsocial mores, especially amongst the respectable working classes inhis native north of England, with his writing for television. Hisgreatest resource as a writer is a shrewd ear for the oddities ofeveryday speech, as demonstrated in the two series of monologues forTV known collectively as Talking Heads (1987, 1998). He hascontinued to write for the stage, sometimes appearing in his own plays.His later dramas have included the double bill Single Spies(1988; A Question of Attribution, An Englishman Abroad), inwhich he played the traitor Anthony Blunt, The Madness of GeorgeIII (1991, adapted for the cinema in 1995), and The Lady inthe Van (1999), based on a bizarre incident in his own life. TheHistory Boys, a highly praised play set in a boys' grammar school,opened at the National Theatre in 2004 and later transferred successfullyto Broadway, where it earned six Tony Awards. The National also premieredBennett's The Habit of Art (2009), which centres on an imaginedmeeting between the poet W. H. Auden and the composer BenjaminBritten.

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