Alan Bennett stars in a new production of his own acclaimed satrical comedy, 30 years after its original West End debut.
The Headmaster has been at Albion House for 50 years, man and boy. Now he is retiring and takes part in the end-of-year entertainment for the last time. Entitled Speak For England, Arthur, it weaves together a multi-generational story of England: the glorious era at the turn of the century, when the summers were always golden; the fast-living inter-war years peopled by the Bloomsbury Group; and the growing cynicism of a country going to war twice in so many decades.
Tongue-in-cheek, the play-within-a-play prompts an outraged response from the Headmaster, who can only see his beloved standards being mocked. Yet within the parody lies an almost-painful nostalgia for a more peaceful age and the timeless misunderstanding of one generation by another.
Clever, funny, and poignant, Alan Bennett's masterful play is rightly regarded as a modern classic.
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I was greatly privileged to see Alan Bennett and Sir John Geilgud (as the headmaster) in this creation of his in the West End at the tail-end of the ?swinging sixties? in 1969. This more recent audio recording does justice to the play, with one exception ? only strains of the classic ?The dogs they had a party? can be heard, as the victorious rugby team return. A full rendition was called for! This is a great listen, but be warned ? there is no slapstick stuff here. The humour ranges from the subtle, the laconic, to the lavatorial.
"100 years on it will still be great."
A brilliantly written and performed work of England dealing with its war-time struggles. A master writer and satirist at work.
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