Boeing Boeing Frances de la Tour photo by Manuel Harlan
Boeing Boeing Frances de la Tour photo by Manuel Harlan

Gambon leads Bennett’s Habit Of Art

Published August 19, 2009

Michael Gambon, Alex Jennings and Frances de la Tour will lead the cast of Alan Bennett’s new play at the National Theatre this autumn, for which dates and full casting have now been announced.

The Habit Of Art will run in the Lyttelton theatre from 5 November (press night 17 November) with a cast that also includes Adrian Scarborough, Stephen Wight, John Heffernan and Elliot Levey. National Theatre Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner directs.

Bennett’s play reflects on growing old, creativity and the ethics of biography through an imagined meeting between composer Benjamin Britten and his former collaborator and friend W H Auden. During this meeting, their first for 25 years, they are observed and interrupted by, amongst others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station.

The playwright’s last piece for the National Theatre, The History Boys, transferred for two seasons to the West End, toured the UK and played on Broadway, winning multiple Laurence Olivier and Tony Awards. His other plays include Enjoy, The Old Country and The Madness Of George III.

Gambon was last seen on the London stage in No Man’s Land last year. His extensive stage career, which includes being a part of the original National Theatre company under Laurence Olivier, comprises recent appearances in the West End (Eh Joe, Endgame), the Royal Court (A Number) and the National (Henry IV Parts 1 and 2). He is also well known by film fans for playing Dumbledore in the last three Harry Potter films.

Jennings and de la Tour are both regulars on the London stage and at the National Theatre, where Jennings’s credits include Present Laughter, The Alchemist, Stuff Happens and His Girl Friday. De la Tour appeared in Bennett’s The History Boys and has recent West End credits including Boeing Boeing at the Comedy theatre.

Also this autumn director Katie Mitchell, whose work for the National includes versions of The Seagull, … Some Trace Of Her, Women Of Troy, Waves and Attempts On Her Life returns to the Southbank with two new productions.

In the Cottesloe, Mitchell teams up once more with regular collaborator Martin Crimp to direct his version of Ferdinand Bruckner’s Pains Of Youth, which plays from 21 October (press night 28 October).

Set in Vienna in 1932, this shocking, erotically charged play centres on six sexually entangled medical students who restlessly wander in and out of a boarding house, cramming, drinking, taunting and spying.

The cast for Pains Of Youth includes Sian Clifford, Laura Elphistone, Cara Horgan, Jonah Russell, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Lydia Wilson.

Mitchell turns to children’s theatre for her second production, a stage adaptation of Dr Seuss’s book The Cat In The Hat, which previews in the Cottesloe from 11 December (press night 16 December).

Aiming to be a lively first theatre experience for 3 to 6 year olds, The Cat In The Hat brings the well known cat with the red and white striped hat to the stage. From the moment he appears round the door, Sally and her brother know that the cat in the hat is the funniest, most mischievous cat they have ever met. He turns a rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure – but what will mum find when she gets home?

The Cat In The Hat will be accompanied by a range of games and activities for 3 to 6 year olds, held in the National’s new inflatable Discover Playspace.

The new season also sees the continuation of NT Live, the initiative which broadcasts live performances to cinema screens around the UK and abroad. After the success of Phedre earlier this year, NT Live continues with All’s Well That Ends Well (1 October), Nation (30 January) and The Habit Of Art (22 April).

Also this season Brian Cox is confirmed to read the monologue Lolita in the Lyttelton in September, while John Lithgow performs a double bill of stories – Uncle Fred Flits by P G Wodehouse and Haircut by Ring Lardner – for two performances in October.

CB