Author, playwright and screenwriter Alan Bennett (1934-), a Yorkshireman, began writing in 1960, when he was a member of the illustrious Oxford Revue ensemble that wrote and performed ‘Beyond the Fringe’ in Edinburgh, London and New York. Its success pushed him to resign as junior lecturer, though decades later he donated 15 bookshelf metres of his life’s work to Oxford’s Bodleian Library in gratitude for his education there.
His first play, ‘Forty Years On’ (1968) featured no less a star than Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000) and Bennett continued to enchant and amuse audiences with subsequent hits such as ‘Talking Heads’ (1988, 1999), ‘The Madness of George III’ (1991) and ‘The History Boys’ (2004). Bennett’s witty sharpness has won him many fans. ‘The Lady in the Van’ (1999) is an example of how Bennett recycles real-life episodes ~ he had allowed his homeless acquaintance to live in a van on his driveway for 15 years, providing a wealth of anecdotal material for later use.
His voice has a comfortable quality and he has recorded several classic children’s stories. Bennett declined a CBE in 1988 and a knighthood in 1996, saying “It would be like having to wear a suit every day of your life.” Here he imagines the Queen’s belated regret on not being well-read:
(Top image: Chris Beckett at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)