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Alan Bennett Biography

(1934– ), Beyond the Fringe, Forty Years On, Getting On, Habeas Corpus, The Old Country, Enjoy

British dramatist, born in Yorkshire, educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He first came to prominence as one of the authors and performers of the anti-establishment revue Beyond the Fringe (1960). There is also a satiric thrust to some of his own plays, notably Forty Years On (1968), set in the assembly hall of Albion House, a public school, in which scenes involving the headmaster and his colleagues are intercut with extracts from the school play, itself a series of witty skits on the cultural and political history of establishment England in the twentieth century. This treats subjects ranging from Virginia Woolf, T. E. Lawrence, and James Baldwin to the British nanny with a gentle mockery and a rueful nostalgia, a mix characteristic of his work in general. His subsequent plays, though always marked by wry, sophisticated humour, have been more serious in intent and often more melancholy in tone. They include Getting On (1971), about a disillusioned Member of Parliament; Habeas Corpus (1973), about contemporary sexual mores; The Old Country (1977), about a British traitor living in Soviet Russia; Enjoy (1980), about the decline of both northern England and the family; and Kafka's Dick (1986), in which the Czech writer visits contemporary Britain. A play of broader scope is The Madness of George III (1991), about the personal and political ramifications of ‘Farmer George's’ affliction with porphyria. Bennett has also written screenplays for the films A Private Function and Prick Up Your Ears, and many dramatic pieces for television: among them An Englishman Abroad, a portrait of the spy Guy Burgess in Moscow, and Talking Heads (1989), a series of monologues which demonstrates another of his qualities, a humane yet humorous understanding of lonely, sad lives. His adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's A Wind in the Willows scored a major success at the National Theatre in 1990. Writing Home, a collection of his essays, personal observations and recollections, and introductions to his plays, appeared in 1995.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais Biography to Michel Bibaud Biography