Sunday, 21 November 2010

Alan Bennett: A National Treasure?

There is a profile of Alan Bennett in The Sunday Times titled The National's Treasure.
It's a double-ended pun as the feature's written by Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, who's directed seven of Bennett's plays.
The two men discuss their working relationship in Alan Bennett and The Habit of Art on More4 on Saturday.
Profiles of Alan Bennett seem dutybound to describe him as "a national treasure" these days - a cliche quite freely applied to other people.
"It's a funny bit of cookery," Peter York told The Guardian last year. "You need durability, you need to be fairly mature [he thinks 50 and above is about right] and you need to have a basic craft or skill."
According to The Guardian, York thinks the real national treasures are fairly mid-market performers who have been around for so long you feel they must have hidden depths ("June Whitfield, for instance") and those, such as Judi Dench and David Attenborough, "who have always been at the top of their game and you're just glad they're there. 'Don't die yet!' That's what that's about."
The Observer today is asking readers; "Help us find Britain's National Treasures".
"What connects union firebrand Arthur Scargill, maverick musician Mark E Smith and comedy actress June Whitfield..."
I bet Alan Bennett wins that one, he's one of those gay men the nation seems to treasure.
Elton John gets called a national treasure a lot, often with the explainer that he's "the Queen Mum of Pop", which I think may mean we're all suposed to like him.
And much of the recent hooha about Stephen Fry was arguably because a "national treasure" like him isn't supposed to touch on tricky topics - a bit like the Queen talking about politics.
Which you could argue it was.
Alan Bennett has said he hates his national treasure status.
Which seems to be confirmed in the Sunday Times piece.
'He pleads with those who talk about him to the press to blow his cover,' writes Hytner. '“Tell them I’m a cunt, love.”'


  1. For the record The Sunday Times printed "c***".

  2. "Tell them I'm a cunt, love."

    Ha ha!!! Brilliant.
    I wish I'd seen The Habit of Art but never got round to it. It was broadcast live to cinemas across the nation a few months ago and there was talk of a DVD but that's looking less likely now.
    And yet you can buy every hideous series of My Family in pristine deluxe box sets. What a sick world we live in...

  3. It's also shaming that More4 haven't put something else Bennett-related on that night.
    Instead they're following it with TV Adverts Greatest Hits.

  4. As I'm bored, I shall now relate my History Boys story...

    When The History Boys film was first released, the cast and Nicholas Hytner did a Q&A after the film was shown at a cinema in Belsize Park which - being a tragic case with nothing better to do - I attended (mainly to see the film before general release, but I did stay for the Q&A).
    The only interesting/pressing question that was asked was why did they change the sad ending of the play into a more upbeat one for the film and Nicholas Hytner replied that Alan Bennett (who wasn't there) had written the play when he was battling cancer but by the time of writing the screenplay he simply wanted a happy ending so wrote one (I prefer the play's ending).
    All the Boys were there, and most seemed kind of shy but the one who simply wouldn't shut up was the fat one who just kept going on and on and trying to be funny (he wasn't).
    I thought they were all gay apart from the fat one and the rugby playing one and that the only one of them that would go on to any success would be the one who played the Alan Bennett character (Posner).
    At the end the fat one said he'd just had a script for a sitcom greenlighted by the BBC and everyone clapped, probably thinking - as I did - that it'd probably tank after the pilot on BBC3 and never be heard of again. But of course Gavin and Stacey became a hit and "fat one" (James Corden) became the most famous and annoyingly ubiquitous one of them all. The bloke that played Posner (Samuel Barnett) seems to have disappeared after that Jonathan Harvey comedy a few years ago and the rugby player (Russell Tovey) seems to have carved out the best career out of the entire cast... and is the only one that's since come out publically.
    He rocks!!!

    I also saw Paul Nicholls walking around that night!!!
    Best. Night. Ever!!!!!

    Sorry, that's not really a story is it?

  5. The Observer thing asking readers to nominate "national treasures" currently has three replies/comments - thus making The Observer officially less popular than Fagburn.
    Thank you.