Deep in the bowels of London’s National Theatre, rehearsals for a new play go apace: Benjamin Britten is having trouble with his latest opera and seeks out his collaborator, poet W. H. Auden, after a twenty-five year separation. Between visits by a rent boy and a biographer—briefly mistaken for the rent boy—these aging artists wrestle with their desires, their jealousies, the ephemeral connection between creativity and inspiration, and all the reasons their friendship fell apart.
Wistful and filthily funny, the latest play from the award-winning writer of The History Boys examines creativity, desire, and the tenacity of the artistic spirit.
Studio’s Subscription Series is the core of our programming, offering an uncommonly rich repertoire of provocative contemporary writing from around the world and inventive stagings of contemporary classics.
A production so polished that it could open on Broadway as is.
Delightful…an actorly home run. You’ll have a grand time.
An extraordinarily funny, deeply revealing look at the creation of theater from start to finish. Bennett’s sense of humor, as wistful and self-effacing as it is blindingly sharp, is unfailing.
Benjamin Britten met W. H. Auden in 1935 when both were working for the General Post Office Film Unit, which produced documentary films about modern-day life. Auden wrote verse for the films, and Britten composed soundtracks. Auden was 29 and quickly absorbed Britten, 22, into his circle of leftist, pacifist, and predominantly homosexual young writers. Initially dazzled and intimidated by Auden’s talent and persona, Britten eventually chafed against Auden’s air of superiority and ongoing attempts to influence Britten’s work, politics, and personal life. After courting Britten himself, Auden continued to entreat Britten to live and compose beyond his comfort zones.Read More
In The Habit of Art, Benjamin Britten rekindles his relationship with W. H. Auden while composing Death in Venice, his last opera. Based on Thomas Mann’s short story of the same name, the opera treats Britten’s recurrent themes—the individual in society, temptation and punishment—more directly than his previous work.Read More
In The Habit of Art, Alan Bennett imagines a meeting late in the lives of two artistic titans of the twentieth century: former friends, composer Benjamin Britten and poet W. H. Auden. The two met in their twenties and worked together for the next half-dozen years, during Auden’s most fertile period and just before Britten made his mark on twentieth-century music. Six years, an unsuccessful seduction (Auden of Britten, early on), several documentaries, an opera, and several songs later, Britten broke off their collaborations and friendship.Read More