At Art’s Habit with Lord Arrowby, Laura Malcolm and Esme Manning

Tuesday 9th February 2010

Actually it’s The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett, at the National Theatre, London, England. Anything less Poor Little Rich Gay would be hard to imagine, full of middle-classes, in sensible clothes, smugly eating sensible all-in-one baguettes , all the better to hurtle sensibly back to the suburbs directly after, from whence they came.

No Ivy for them.

On the other hand, I encountered by slight acquaintance a well-known actor, who said, ‘I must meet my friend.’ Friend turned out to be Anna Massey. Also present were Esther Rantzen  and Richard Briers.

Esme, herself of the stage and screen, as you may recall, with Laura Malcolm and myself in Normandy last summer, was not best pleased that I had omitted to blog what she insists on calling her 50th Birthday party which took place about a month ago. I can’t think what came over me. I sat with a man from the Daily Mail,who told me all the dripping gore of Andrew Marr’s activities in the High Court (veiled, I know, but it has to be). Charis Cameron, also in Normandy last year, thank goodness, has got out of that awful flat with the bed bugs and evil cash-only landlady.

Then there were Esme’s presents. She got a whole fur coat …and an astonishing pendant, among other things – see graph below. All unwrapped before the assembled, with superb aplomb, as an entertainment, by Esme.

Now the play.  The main attraction for me was that tickets were hard to come by. ‘Fuck off, Alan Bennett,’ was Lord Arrowby’s verdict. Laura Malcolm was incensed, Esme also. Flabby, rambling effort. Astonishing that it’s sold out for months and raved over by critics. Just can’t be good. About Auden and Britten. ‘Be yourself!’ Auden says to Britten, or something like that.  Which seemed to mean that Britten should display his passion for 14-year-old boys, giving not a damn for the opinion of Aldeburgh neighbours. No particular exploration of that nor of Auden’s unconventional sexual activities. Many other avenues confusingly opened up but not gone down – the virtue of biography but the work of the subjects more important, then music better than words, but what about the minor characters such as rent boys left out of great lives and finally Frances de la Tour offering hymn of praise to the National Theatre itself.

The real purpose was to titillate the quiz-minded and easily shocked culture-vulture middle-class audience. ‘Tristan,’ a woman behind whispered when that music was heard on stage. Earlier: ‘Who’s that actor? He’s awfully well-known.’ Then shrieks of delighted embarrassed laughter if someone said ‘Suck off’ or ‘Dick’. Even so, if they hadn’t been so flattered that it was about two frightfully famous figures with whose work they might have some acquaintance, they’d have been bored to death.

Lord Arrowby and I had great fun sneering but later in the restaurant I made a silly, naughty remark about what he might do with £7.75. Lord A absolutely incandescent. It wasn’t Mr Darcy, it was Mr Knightley. Box Hill all over again. I begin to wonder what it would be like, were we ever to be an item.  I think  I would be always sobbing in a carriage in one of those horrible sprigged muslin frocks with the waist hitched up under the bosom and a basket-work bonnet crammed on the head.

Esme Manning's Exceptional Pendant

Esme Manning's Exceptional Pendant

Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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  1. Robert Nevil says:

    Take back your mink
    From whence it came…

    as a certain Theatre Critic wrote in the margin of one of my books when I’d committed this solecism.
    Mortified and never forgotten.

    (It’s from “Guys & Dolls” as every PLRG will immediately recognize.)

    Was it Special Discount Evening for Thesp Seniors at the NT by the way?

    The pendant certainly is exceptional. Ditto frock.

  2. admin says:

    ‘And get them to hollanderise it
    For some other dame….’

    Whole week’s worth of phone-ins on Radio 4 on meaning of ‘hollanderise’

    ‘….from whence’ was delib

    I shall be appearing in ‘Guys and Dolls’ soon at Brent Cross

  3. admin says:

    Re:special discount eve: it was a Monday and my great uncle who was famous actor in his day (death announced on the NEWS:on tour with Googie Withers at the time: 1961)always said ‘Never go to the theatre on a monday’

  4. My thanks to Lord Arrowby. I put that the play is called ‘The Habit of Love’, but it is ‘The Habit of Art’. I’ve changed it, hoping that no-one has noticed. But really it makes no difference. It could have been called anything.

  5. More mistakes – Reggie Cresswell points out that it should be have been ‘titillate’ not ‘titivate’. Report to for all the latest on grammar and spelling

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