Alan Bennett’s new play The Habit Of Art – his first since the hugely successful The History Boys – imagines a meeting between two great artists.
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 for 25 years, they are observed and interrupted by, among others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station.
The Habit Of Art is as much about the theatre 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 is spent – ultimately, on the habit of art.
This is Bennett’s fifth play for the National Theatre following The History Boys, which enjoyed multiple runs at the National before transferring to the West End and Broadway, where it won both Laurence Olivier and Tony Awards. His other plays include Enjoy, recently seen in the West End, Talking Heads and The Old Country.