People, Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre, London. February 2013
Due to the Writing Britain exhibition and week of events I am late in writing this review and I am finding it hard to write as a result.
This was our third Alan Bennett play in 2 months and this was the full length play rather than 'shorts'. The stage and settings looked very familiar however as Hymn and Cocktail Sticks use the same stage.
The premise of the play is that Dorothy has inherited a stately home which the family can no longer afford to maintain. Her sister wants her to hand it over to the National Trust but she isn't so sure and is contemplating selling precious family heirlooms or the house itself to private buyers. At one point she also considers renting it out as a location for 'adult movies'.
I found the separate strands of the play to all be good. The characters were all drawn a little over-large and seemed to be caricatures of real people but on a large stage with a relatively small cast this wasn't too much of a problem. There was a reasonable amount of humour in the play but I did find Bennett's usual under current of sadness/pathos missing.
For me the strands just didn't quite come together to make a cohesive play, it was more than skits but less than a fully formed piece.
Bennett also has a lot to say about the National Trust - he recognises that they obviously do an enormous amount to save important things for the nation but that in doing so they definitely sanitise history. He is very convincing - and I did come out of the play feeling a little sheepish at having become a member of the NT last year!
As ever in a Bennett play there is one refrain that sticks with me and that really resonates even after a few week's reflection: PST. People Spoil Things.
I am very pleased that I saw this play in London with the original cast, missing out on seeing The History Boys with the original cast both in London and Norwich is a huge regret, but I'm not sure that it will be remembered as one of Bennett's better plays.