I discovered, just in time, that the National Theatre of London has begun doing live broadcasts. I caught their 4th, The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett, with Michael Gambon playing W.H Auden. What a total treat for someone who has known the theatre and it's backstage personality tizzies. The play takes place in a rehearsal hall with not only actors but playwright, stage manager, and many others. The story within the story is of a late-in-life meeting of Auden and Benjamin Britain [which I think was fictional]. What a rich script! Not for everyone, far more enjoyable for those of us who know and love the backstage/rehearsal process. Michael Gambon as W.H. Auden was magnificent as a ruined old man [none of Auden's famous wrinkles except when a mask maker brings an unacceptable mask]. People who have trouble with homosexuality would not care for this play -- their loss. Only one woman in the cast, a very strong stage manager who is brilliant. These airings of National Theater productions will continue for another season and maybe much more -- the first in the fall will be a Hamlet. Rejoicing for the technology that makes this and the Met. Opera simulcasts possible.
Here is a short-ish Auden poem [he was a MOST verbose sort of writer and human being]
The Lonely Betters
As I listened from a beach chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and bird.
A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew.
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should be mated.
Not one of them was capable of lying.
There was not one which knew that it was dying.
Or could have with a rhythm or rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.
Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep.
Words are for those with promises to keep.
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