[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/74506?ns=guardian&pageName=In+praise+of%E2%80%A6+late+Alan+Bennett%3AArticle%3A1306484&ch=Comment+is+free&c3=Guardian&c4=Alan+Bennett+%28Playwright%29%2CTheatre%2CStage&c6=Editorial&c7=09-Nov-18&c8=1306484&c9=Article&c10=Editorial&c11=Comment+is+free&c13=In+praise+of+...+%28editorial+series%29&c25=Comment+is+free&c30=content&h2=GU%2FComment+is+free%2Fblog%2FComment+is+free[/img]Don't panic. Not the late Alan Bennett but late Alan Bennett – thankfully a different thing. Late style, according to (the late) Edward Said, is the distinctively unresolved, often darker and more difficult, character of the works some creative artists produce in their last years. Think, most obviously, of late Beethoven. Or think, as Said himself did, of late Benjamin Britten in his final opera, Death in Venice. Or maybe, as the 75-year-old Bennett speculates in an introductory essay to his new play The Habit of Art, think Bennett himself. The work premiered at the National Theatre last night and reviewed in later editions of today's Guardian, focuses, surely not by coincidence, on the Britten of Death in Venice. Bennett admits there are stylistic oddities in the play, such as furniture with a gift for rhyme. But Far Headingley's finest is characteristically doubtful about that "late style" tag, calling it "some sort of licence, a permit for ageing practitioners to kick their heels up". Bennett's admirers, however, should not be fooled. Formally speaking, The Habit of Art may be, as the writer claims, "quite simple". In other respects, though, it is the play of a man with pressing things to say – about poetry, music, theatre, posterity and also himself – as well as new ways to express them. Such questions famously apply to Britten and to WH Auden, who are central characters in the new play. But they palpably apply to Bennett, too. There is an innovative urgency in late Alan Bennett. Long may he and it prosper.
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Guardian: In praise of… late Alan Bennett
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