In light of the closure of theatres across the UK due to COVID-19, the Original Theatre Company’s productions of Alan Bennett’s THE HABIT OF ART and Ali Milles’s THE CROFT, both of which were touring the UK, will now each have an online launch performance: THE HABIT OF ART on Thursday 26 March at 8:15pm and THE CROFT on Friday 27 March at 7:30pm. The performances are available to pre-order now. The videos will then be available to watch online until 2 June 2020.
The Original Theatre Company operates with no Arts Council support and relies solely on box office takings. With productions of THE HABIT OF ART and THE CROFT both out on national tours, the immediate cancellations are financially devastating. The company is determined, wherever possible, to meet financial commitments made to actors, stage managers and suppliers who are all dependent on the company to survive the coming months. They therefore ask people pay what they can afford but have a suggested minimum donation of £2.50.
Every penny they make through this online release will go to the people who helped make these shows and who now find themselves in a hugely precarious financial position. People in exceptional financial difficulties can access the videos for free by emailing directly the Original Theatre Company.
“We hope people who have booked tickets and are now unable to attend, along with many thousands of others, can now access these videos and enjoy two superb pieces of theatre in the comfort of their homes. Some small respite in these trying times.
“We want to encourage people to make their own in-house theatre experience. We will be making play-appropriate drink suggestions, suggestions of what people might wear to watch the productions, a fun code of conduct which amounts to ‘do whatever you like, as you are in your own house’, and ask people to share photos of their home theatre experience.”
THE HABIT OF ART is directed by Philip Franks and stars Matthew Kelly as Fitz (W. H. Auden), David Yelland as Henry (Benjamin Britten), Veronica Roberts (Kay, the stage manager), Robert Mountford (Neil, the author), John Wark (Donald/Humphrey Carpenter), Jessica Dennis (George, the assistant stage manager) and Benjamin Chandler (Tim/Stuart).
THE HABIT OF ART explores friendship, rivalry and heartache, the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity. It is centred on a fictional meeting between poet W. H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten. Bennett wrote it as a play-within-a-play – actors Fitz, Henry, Tim and Donald are rehearsing a play called Caliban’s Day under the direction of stage manager, Kay, and in the presence of the playwright, Neil. In Caliban’s Day, a fictitious meeting occurs in 1973 in Auden’s (Fitz) rooms at Oxford not long before he dies. Britten (Henry) has been auditioning boys nearby for his opera Death in Venice, and arrives unexpectedly – their first meeting in 25 years after falling out over the failure of their opera Paul Bunyan.
Alan Bennett’s THE HABIT OF ART premiered at the National Theatre in November 2009, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Richard Griffiths, Alex Jennings and Frances de la Tour. The National then toured the production in Autumn 2010 with a new cast led by Desmond Barrit, Malcolm Sinclair and Selina Caddell.
This production of THE HABIT OF ART has been designed by Adrian Linford, with lighting by Johanna Town, sound by Max Pappenheim and casting by Joyce Nettles.
THE CROFT is directed by Philip Franks and stars Gwen Taylor as Enid, Caroline Harker as Suzanne / Ruth, Drew Cain as David / Alec, Lucy Doyle as Laura / Eilene, Simon Roberts as Tom / Patrick,
THE CROFT is set in the remote Scottish Highlands village of Coillie Ghille, where we encounter three women from different eras whose lives are intertwined by the croft’s dark history. In the 1880’s, we have Enid, the last person left in the village – she’s resilient, a survivor, who takes in the Laird’s pregnant daughter, Eilene. In 2005, Ruth occupies the croft, which she and her husband Tom bought as a holiday home and where Ruth has her affair with local man, David. In the present day, Laura returns with her friend Suzanne to her parent’s croft after her mother Ruth’s death. They discover the terrifying truth that lurks within the croft. In this bold and haunting play, the present interweaves with the past, as these women search for love in the midst of great danger. As we watch their stories intertwine and ancient tales surface, can the present heal the past?
THE CROFT is designed by Adrian Linford, with lighting by Chris Davey, sound by Max Pappenheim and casting by Ellie Collyer-Bristow CDG.