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Following a highly acclaimed tour in 2018, The Original Theatre Company and The Anthology Group in association with Peter Stickney and York Theatre Royal’s production of Alan Bennett’s THE HABIT OF ART will return and tour the UK in 2020.
Directed by Philip Franks and starring Matthew Kelly as Fitz (W. H. Auden) and David Yelland as Henry (Benjamin Britten). The tour begins on 18 March 2020 at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne and comes to the Exeter Northcott Theatre from May 18 – 23.
The play explores friendship, rivalry and heartache, the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity.
It is centred on a fictional meeting between poet W. H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten. 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.
Matthew Kelly is currently appearing in BIG The Musical, (Dominion Theatre). His other West End credits include Waiting For Godot with Ian McKellan and Roger Rees, Tim Firth’s play Sign of the Times, the musical Lend Me A Tenor! and Lennie in the Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of Of Mice and Men at the Savoy Theatre, for which he won the Olivier Award for Best Actor. Other recent theatre includes Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel: A Concert (Cadogan Hall), The Box of Delights (Wilton’s Music Hal), Desire Under The Elms (Sheffield Crucible), Pride & Prejudice (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre & UK Tour), The Jew Of Malta, Volpone and Love’s Sacrifice for the RSC, and Toast (Park Theatre & 59E59 in New York). Matthew’s television work includes the award-winning thriller Cold Blood, Benidorm and Bleak House, though he is probably best known for presenting You Bet! and Stars in their Eyes.
David Yelland’s theatre credits include Witness for the Prosecution (London County Hall), All Our Children (Jermyn Street Theatre), A Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare’s Globe), Taken at Midnight (Chichester Festival Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket). West End credits include Deathtrap (Garrick), The Deep Blue Sea (Haymarket), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Strand), Richard III (Savoy – for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award), Life x3 (Savoy) and Man and Boy (Duchess). His television credits include the title role in David Copperfield, Nick Rumpole in Rumpole of the Bailey, George in Agatha Christie’s Poirot, EastEnders, The Crown and Endeavour. Film credits include Happy End (directed by Michael Haneke), Hunter Killer, Coriolanus (directed by Ralph Fiennes), Field Marshal Haig in Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful (directed by Pat O’Connor) and The Prince of Wales in Chariots of Fire.
Veronica Roberts plays the role of Kay, the Stage Manager. Her recent theatre credits include Mrs Gascoyne in The Daughter-in-Law (Arcola), Joy Bray in 49 Donkeys Hanged (Plymouth), and Marina in Uncle Vanya (Theatr Clywd/Sheffield Crucible). She is perhaps best known for playing Dorothy Bennett in the BBC Drama Tenko and Laura Elliot in ITVS’s Peak Practice. She has recently starred as Mrs Bookham in BBC’s Scarborough.
Robert Mountford plays the Author, Neil. His one man show Vagbonds – My Phil Lynott Odyssey played between 2015 and 2019 to sell-out audiences in Edinburgh, London and Dublin. In 2017 Robert was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the UK Theatre Awards for House & Garden (Newbury Watermill). His other theatre credits include: Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well (GSC/Jermyn Street Theatre), The Omission of the Family Coleman (Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath), Harold Pinter’s Betrayal (Salisbury Playhouse) and Anita and Me for Birmingham Rep. Robert has toured extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
John Wark plays Donald (Humphrey Carpenter). His theatre work includes Dead Sheep (UK Tour & Park Theatre), Toast (UK Tour, 59E59 New York & Park Theatre), The Cocktail Party (The Print Room), Keepers of Infinite Space (Park Theatre), Thark (Park Theatre), and The Fear of Breathing (Finborough Theatre).
Jessica Dennis plays the role of George, the Assistant Stage Manager. Her recent theatre credits include Henry V and The Tempest (Shakespeare's Rose, York), The Wind In the Willows (Polka Theatre), Meet Me in the Ruins (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry), Romeo and Juliet (Orange Tree Theatre) and Offside (Futures Theatre, National Tour). She is also a regular performer for the award-winning Wireless Theatre Company and Audible.
Benjamin Chandler will play Tim (Stuart). His previous credits include The Passing Of The Third Floor Back (Finborough Theatre) and Three Sisters (The Union Theatre).
Alan Bennett’s THE HABIT OF ART premiered at the National Theatre in November 2009, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Richard Griffiths, Alex Jennings and Frances de la Tour. The National then toured the production in Autumn 2010 with a new cast led by Desmond Barrit, Malcolm Sinclair and Selina Caddell.
The 2020 UK Tour of THE HABIT OF ART will be directed by Philip Franks and designed by Adrian Linford, with lighting by Johanna Town, sound by Max Pappenheim and casting by Joyce Nettles.
Twitter: @OriginalTheatre #HabitOfArt
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (including interval)
Suitable for 12+