Alan Bennett’s ‘The Habit of Art’

York Theatre Royal and The Original Theatre Company present:
Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art
Starring Matthew Kelly and David Yelland
Directed by Philip Franks
York Theatre Royal, 30 August to 8 September

Olivier award-winning actor Matthew Kelly is returning to York Theatre Royal in the first revival of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art. This marks his second appearance at the theatre in a play by the acclaimed Yorkshire playwright after previously starring in Kafka’s Dick in 2001 alongside his actor son Matthew Rixon.

Matthew Kelly and David Yelland lead the cast of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, first seen at the National Theatre in 2009. This revival begins a UK tour at York Theatre Royal.

The play is centred on a fictional meeting between poet W H Auden and composer Benjamin Britten, exploring friendship, rivalry and heartache, the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity.

Bennett wrote it as a play-within-a-play. Actors Fitz, Henry, Tim and Donald are rehearsing a play called Caliban’s Day under the direction of stage manager Kay and in the presence of the playwright Neil. In Caliban’s Day, a fictitious meeting occurs in 1973 in Auden’s (Fitz) rooms at Oxford not long before he dies. Britten (Henry) has been auditioning boys nearby for his opera Death in Venice and arrives unexpectedly – their first meeting in 25 years after falling out over the failure of their opera Paul Bunyan.

Award-winning director and actor Philip Franks, currently appearing in Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall, directs this touring revival of The Habit of Art. He has directed shows at the National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Edinburgh International Festival and in the West End. He’s well-known for his TV work in The Darling Buds of May, Heartbeat, Bleak House and Martin Chuzzlewit.

The cast also includes Veronica Roberts, perhaps best known for roles in the BBC drama Tenko and ITV’s Peak Practice, as stage manager Kay.

Robert Mountford plays the Author/Neil, John Wark plays Donald/Humphrey Carpenter, and Benjamin Chandler plays Tim/Stuart.

The production is designed by Adrian Linford, with lighting by Johanna Town, and sound design by Max Pappenheim.

After opening in York, The Habit of Art will tour to Brighton, Salisbury, Oxford, Guildford, Ipswich, Richmond, Liverpool, Cambridge, Coventry, Salford, Southend and Malvern.

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