Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alan Revisited

Since I bought the LP Beyond the Fringe in 1961 I’ve been a fan of Alan Bennett. The other three members of the hilarious quartet were Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller. They all went on to do other things but I stayed faithful to Alan. Well he was a nice northern lad – albeit from over the border in Leeds. He is a prolific playwright both for stage and television and this week has seen a Bennett Fest on BBC TV where each night we have had Bennett on Bennett, Mark Lawson on Bennett, some of his plays and a selection of his Talking Heads. His so-called ‘cosiness’ is banished forever when he tells of an expletive a friend had employed to describe the writer.

A highlight for me is when he is talking about his family – he can become his mother in a flash capturing what he calls ’an incurable disease of the vowels.’ She had the odd spell in hospital with depression, and whilst walking along the corridor she said:
‘See this woman coming along? She’s tried to commit suicide three times,’ and then with a bright smile and head on one side to the unfortunate woman –‘’Ello!’
This gallows humour gets me every time.

Like many talented people he is ‘afraid of being found out,’ and believes that you are only a writer when you are actually writing. Even being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997 didn’t stem the flow and his latest play The Habit of Art opened at The National last month. He has the ability to get under his character’s skin and they don’t have to be maladjusted or disabled northerners. I particularly enjoyed a second viewing of A Question of Attribution - concerning Anthony Blunt the art historian’s role as the fourth man in the real life Cambridge spy ring and was quite convinced by his portrayal of Her Majesty. Then there was the tragic vicar’s wife played by Maggie Smith who found love at last with an Indian shop- keeper in Bed among the Lentils, A chip in the Sugar and so much more.

How I envied those WI members in the Yorkshire village where he has a cottage. They had him for a whole evening. For many years we had a cottage in a nearby village and I would occasionally amble slowly past his house longing to catch a glimpse of him but sadly never did. It’s not too late if you would like to catch some:
tonight on BBC4 10pm Bennett on Bennett 10.10pm Talking Heads with Penelope Wilton and 10.50pm Our Winnie.

A favourite quote:
‘To be brought up in Leeds in the 40s was to learn early on the quite useful lesson that life is generally something that happens elsewhere.’
In my case substitute Waterfoot for Leeds and you’re cooking with gas.

It’s a beautiful day today and so hope it will be tomorrow when we go to Crocombe for our Christmas lunch – it’s lovely in the sunshine.


Queenie said...

When I saw his photo at the top of your post, my first thought was 'oh no, has he died?' Phew! I think the first present my Paramour ever bought me was an audio collection of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. Genius.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Excellent gallows humour Pat... I'm still laughing at it.

Four Dinners said...

Alan Bennett is a God.

Well allright he's a Yorkie but nobody's perfect....;-)

Carol's first genuine initiation into 'The North' was 'Talking Heads'. To be specific the Thora Hird one.

Her (southern) comment?

"You aren't actually that bad really are you?"

She even watches 'Corrie' now and then since seeing that......

Pat said...

Queenie: Heaven forfend!
What a great present.

Jimmy: that's a comfort:)

Four D: maybe his Mam was Lancastrian - I've often wondered.
I've got the Thora one on tape. I loved it when I first saw it. She's sadly missed.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh how I wish we could see him here in the US...! "Beyond The Frings"...I have such fond memories of those dear funmy fellows. They were two theatres down from us on 45th street back in 1963--we were doing SPOON RIVER at The Booth...(Maybe they were one theatre down---I cannot remember that was either The Royale or The Plymouth---both theatres now called something else...)
ANYWAY....I was in love with Dudley M. and crazy about the other guys, too. What a treasure of a man Mr. Bennett is!

R. Sherman said...

Enjoy your weekend, dear, and post photos on Monday.


Pat said...

Naomi: my comment has disappeared again. It must have been great being n Broadway at the same time. Dudley was a bit of a heart-throb

Randall: I distinctly remember telling MTL as I snapped his Christmas pud telling him you would expect photos.