I went to see the National Theatre of London's production of Alan Bennett's new play The Habit of Art, as it was screened live to hundreds of movie theatres around the world. What a terrific idea this is - and it completely works on a big screen. You are still seeing a live performance in a packed house, with some of the best actors in the world (and close-up so you can see every nuance and twitch in their faces), and you don't have to wait years until the play finally hits your city. And it was a terrific and immensely enjoyable production set during a play rehearsal of an imagined meeting between an elderly W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten, years after they worked on a failed opera together. The acting was superb, the writing witty and insightful about poetry, music, and of course the theatre, and I didn't have to get on a plane. Just before the play began, the audience was treated to some snippets of a documentary that will be airing in Britain in the fall about the friendship between these two artists. They quoted from a poem of Auden's that completely circles back to Bill McKibben. It's called "Doggerel by a Senior Citizen" and its first stanza goes like this:
Our earth in 1969
Is not the planet I call mine
The world, I mean, that gives me strength
To hold off chaos at arm's length.
I'll be reading some more Auden tonight and I'll be buying myself a copy of Bennett's play very soon. The next live performance in this series will be shown on June 28th when the National Theatre's production of Dion Boucicault's London Assurance will be filmed. This stars one of my all time favourite British actors Simon Russell Beale, along with Fiona Shaw and Richard Briers. I can't wait.