THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: The Habit of Art ★★★

The Habit of Art
Original Theatre Company
Digital Streaming until Tues 2nd June

In times of uncertainty within the theatre industry, many performers and theatres have agreed to stream concerts and previous productions in the hope to ease the stress and worrying state in which the world finds itself in. Original Theatre Company have now joined in to assist with the movement of streaming online with their two current productions of The Croft (which we have a ★★★★ here) and The Habit of Art, an Alan Bennett classic that was staged by the company in 2018 and has now been revived with Matthew Kelly and David Yelland reprising their roles as Fitz and Henry.

Alongside Fitz and Henry on stage are Donald (John Wark) and Tim (Benjamin Chandler), with the four males making up a company of thespians trying to put on a production of Caliban's Day by a Playwright named Neil (Robert Mountford), who has popped along on this specific occasion to a run-through rehearsal of his work. In the absence of a further two company members due to them 'attending a matinee performance', Stage Managers Kay (Veronica Roberts) and George (Jessica Dennis) are also hand and step into the roles to which provides some memorable scenes with comic timing, especially a moment in which was is reminiscent of The Mechanicals from Midsummer Night's Dream when Kay and George speak to the audience as inanimate objects describing the room in which we are about to find ourselves in. This is all set against Adrian Linford's naturalistic rehearsal design, in which feels organic and further accompanies the rehearsal atmosphere in this 'Play within a Play' concept, with a whole host of props and set pieces scattered across the whole stage.

With the concept in mind, there were times in which I found myself questioning exactly what I should've been taking away from the production; with themes of mature sexual nature mixed in with older men who are simply talking about the development of the opera Death in Venice, I do believe a certain demographic would be enthralled by the tone presenter, especially considering that Bennett never shies away from the ideas of loneliness and sexuality in his writing, whilst I was more intrigued by the actions and relationships between those as actors; Mountford's portrayal of Neil is given a moment of delight when he starts to bicker why a poem of his has been pulled from the script from the director, who is absent in the piece, and whilst this does feel like a strand in which can only be heightened, the development just doesn't boil over to anything more.

Furthermore, with a lack of physicality at times within the 'Calibans Day' segments, I found myself wanting to return to the rehearsal nature as I found myself having little sympathy for the fictional meeting between the two characters, though Kelly and Yelland I do believe give a decent performance with the text that they are given. This does makes me believe that if we found ourselves engaging with the action live within a theatre that I may be presented with a completely different atmosphere, one that I think this screening simply does not capture very well due to the lack of response that would usually be given from an audience, plus some moments of close-ups that I would usually be more attracted to if I was to see the larger extent of the stage with the ensemble characters spread around the room.

Overall, whilst at times it makes you laugh with intent at the hilarity and overexageratted tensions within the rehearsal company atmosphere, Habit of Art falls when the text of Caliban's Day comes to the forefront. As a streaming initiative though, I would like to thank Original Theatre for allowing it's loyal audiences to be able to find a new way of experiencing their work, with further behind the scenes content and a digital programme accompanying the full film available online once a purchase has been made from their website, at


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