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Green Jay

Alan Bennett

I found an interesting article last week about Alan Bennett which I thought readers here might like to see. It reassesses both his plays and prose to refute the rather cuddly image he has these days and see why this came about. I love the satirical sketches I hear about him which always seem to feature scones and 'as I said to Thora' but I've always felt he had a much sharper edge to him than that, and his social observation is far from cuddly.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2...t/12/alan-bennett-people-new-play
Chibiabos83

Yesterday I read People, Alan Bennett's latest play. I saw it at the National Theatre a couple of months ago, but wanted to revisit it because it's being broadcast live in cinemas this Thursday and I'm going to see a repeat screening next Monday afternoon. I thought I'd like to get to know better a play that on first impression seemed a bit of a mess, albeit an often very enjoyable one.

It tells the story of ageing beauty Dorothy Stacpoole, a down-on-her-uppers aristocrat who is obliged to sell off her South Yorkshire ancestral home - but to whom? The National Trust, who will let other people in, or a private consortium, who will keep them out? Dorothy lives with her dotty 'companion' Iris and is occasionally impinged upon by her unwelcome sister June, the Archdeacon of Huddersfield.

It's a play that has a lot to say about the absurdities of Englishness and of the heritage industry, and if sometimes the message gets lost there are at least several moments of agreeable clarity, not to mention a number of very good jokes. Perhaps a greater acquaintance of the play will help it to settle in my mind so that I appreciate why this bit goes here and that bit there. The first half of Act 2 involves the shooting of a porn film, and here I felt the humour was rather forced. Anyone who knows Alan Bennett will be used to his sauciness, but this section, entirely justifiable in terms of the plot of the play, feels (to me, at any rate) at odds with the bits that surround it, and detracts from the play's punchiness. Perhaps that feeling will disappear eventually. I suspect time will provide some resolution.

Certainly one can't quibble with the NT cast, whom I can barely wait to see again. Frances de la Tour, Linda Bassett and Selina Cadell as the central trio, plus support from the likes of Nicholas Le Prevost as the National Trust man and Miles Jupp as the consortium one. It's a delight to see them in action, regardless of the quality of the material.
Evie

I am due to go and see this at the cinema on 1 April, and must admit it was the cast that swayed me, having heard other ambivalent responses to the play itself.  It is clearly entertaining enough for you to see it again, Chib, so that's encouraging!  My expectations are not the highest, given what you and others have said about the play itself, but Alan Bennett always seems to have something to offer, and as you say, the cast is wonderful.
Evie

I'm also not really sure I've ever thought of him as cuddly - always seen an edge to him, in a good way, despite national treasure status.
Chibiabos83

Evie wrote:
It is clearly entertaining enough for you to see it again, Chib, so that's encouraging!

Yes, but you should bear in mind that I would pay good money to watch Alan Bennett read aloud from the Leeds telephone directory.
Castorboy

Chibiabos83 wrote:
Certainly one can't quibble with the NT cast, whom I can barely wait to see again. Frances de la Tour, Linda Bassett and Selina Cadell as the central trio, plus support from the likes of Nicholas Le Prevost as the National Trust man and Miles Jupp as the consortium one. It's a delight to see them in action, regardless of the quality of the material.

I saw this on Sunday and am still thinking about the sheer brilliance of the acting as a whole and the outstanding performance of Frances de la Tour. This was my first experience of a NT screening and will follow it up in July when The Audience with Helen Mirren is shown.

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