Alan Bennett needs no introduction in England. He’s a national treasure. But over here, he may be identified as the author of The History Boys and The Madness of King George, or perhaps as one of the fab four cast members of Beyond the Fringe, who — along with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller — conquered Broadway in the Swinging Sixties. Following Beyond the Fringe, Bennett began writing for the stage, but soon found that his work transferred easily and effectively to the small screen. A couple of his monologues have appeared on PBS, most notably A Bed Among the Lentils (The Maggie Smith Collection).
Another PBS favorite was the BAFTA-winning An Englishman Abroad inspired by Coral Browne’s real-life encounter in Moscow with the notorious spy Guy Burgess (Alan Bates). This gem was on the verge of being released back in the VHS days when a rights issue stopped us in our tracks, so we’re glad to FINALLY offer it, lovingly restored for DVD, in this collection. In another “near release” Bennett continued his fascination with the Cambridge spies in A Question of Attribution where James Fox Blunt plays art advisor to Prunella Scales’ (Fawlty Towers) Queen Elizabeth II. His interest in real life figures is again on display when a young Daniel Day Lewis stars as Franz Kafka in The Insurance Man, and a not so young Alan Bates returns to star as Marcel Proust in 102 Boulevard Haussmann opposite Janet McTeer. Patricia Routledge (Keeping Up Appearances) is a stand-out in two short plays: A Visit from Miss Prothero and A Woman of No Importance. Altogether this collection features eleven pieces. Look for An Englishman Abroad – The Alan Bennett Collection in early spring next year.
P.S. For a wry and wonderful read we can’t recommend highly enough Alan Bennett’s novella of several years’ back—The Uncommon Reader—in which Queen Elizabeth II stumbles into a bookmobile and reads her way into a constitutional crisis.