The Habit of Art

A Play

Alan Bennett

Faber and Faber, Inc.

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Benjamin Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W. H. Auden. During this imagined meeting, their first in twenty-five years, they are observed and interrupted by, among others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station.

Alan Bennett’s new play is as much about the theater as it is about poetry or music. It looks at the unsettling desires of two difficult men, and at the ethics of biography. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion’s spent: ultimately, on the habit of art.

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Part One
Afternoon. A large rehearsal room in the National Theatre. Already set up is the interior of the Brewhouse, Christ Church, Oxford, lodgings into which W. H. Auden had moved in 1972. There are a couple of easy chairs, a cluttered kitchen unit and piles of books and papers on every available surface. The room is a mess.
Above the room and set back from it is another stage on which is a grand piano. George, the ASM, is checking props when Donald, who is playing Humphrey Carpenter, enters, and murmurs to him. The ASM takes Donald’s script in order to prompt him.

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Reviews

Praise for The Habit of Art

“A multi-levelled work that deals with sex, death, creativity, biography and much else besides . . . beautifully written . . . deeply moving.” —Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Bennett the maestro returns with a multi-layered masterpiece . . . hilariously provocative . . . mixes hard-won wisdom about such matters as the meaning of collaboration, the dubious value of biography . . . and flurries of delirious silliness.” —Paul Taylor, The Independent

“Deft, amusing, and so intelligently and generously crafted that it makes you feel clever just watching it . . . The Habit of Art is a richly thought-provoking piece about many things, including artistic creation, the vulgarity of biography, sexuality, friendship, the bubble of reputation, but it also has an intriguingly autobiographical feel at times. What sort of artist have I been? Will anything survive?” —Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times


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About the Author

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright, essayist, and storywriter whose play The History Boys won six Tony Awards. He is also the author of the Academy Award–nominated screenplay The Madness of King George. He lives in London, England.

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Available Formats and Book Details

The Habit of Art
A Play
Alan Bennett

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Faber & Faber
Faber and Faber, Inc.
September 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429978330
ISBN10: 1429978333
112 pages
$9.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Faber & Faber
Faber and Faber, Inc.
September 2010
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780865479449
ISBN10: 0865479445
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 112 pages
$14.00
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