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Review: The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett at Cambridge Arts Theatre

PUBLISHED: 16:36 31 October 2018

Matthew Kelly and David Yelland in The Habit of Art Picture: HELEN MAYBANKS

Matthew Kelly and David Yelland in The Habit of Art Picture: HELEN MAYBANKS


A fictional meeting between two towering figures of the 20th century, The Habit of Art comes from the pen of another national treasure – Alan Bennett.

Focusing on the lives, desires and pasts of WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, as they approach the end of their lives, The Habit of Art is as much reflection on old age and the passing of time, as the struggles and tensions within the life of the artist.

Set within the playful and useful device of a play within a play, the two characters of Britten and Auden come together for the first time in 30 years – played by vintage actors Fitz and Henry – in a moment of self-awareness as they recognize their limitations, and reflect on their lives.

This production is engaging and the acting is top notch with Matthew Kelly and David Yelland in the lead roles, drawing in the audience to Bennett’s exploration of the lives of the two men and themes of ageing, sexuality and the lives behind the public lives of great artists.

Amusing yet profound, funny yet almost tragic, this production of The Habit of Art is marvellous to watch.

Under the directorship of Philip Franks, there are no weak links with the whole cast notably strong in talent - Veronica Roberts as the director of the play within the play a case in point.

Well worth seeing, Bennett never really fails and this production does justice to such a fascinating premise - bringing two people of such remarkable legacy together.

Go and see it.

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