Tony Award-winning actor Richard Griffiths is leading the cast of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, which will hold its world premiere at National’s Lyttelton Theatre in London today (Nov. 17).
The Nicholas Hytner production was previewed in London this month.
Griffiths replaces the Michael Gambon, who withdrew from the show during rehearsals because of “minor ill health.”
The play renunites Griffiths and Hytner who were last together in Bennett’s play, The History Boys. It also premiered at the Lyttelton Theatre in 2004, before moving to Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre in 2006.
The play was also made into a feature film, directed by Hytner and starring Griffiths. The play subsequently returned to the U.K for two West End runs at Wyndham’s Theatre in 2006 and 2007, without Griffiths, according to Playbill.
“The Habit of Art is about the business of putting a play together as much as it is about making music or poetry,” according to Hytner.
“Richard Griffiths will play the actor, Fitz, who plays the poet WH Auden in a play set in a rehearsal room as a group of actors work through a play about Auden and Benjamin Britten,” he added.
In the play-within-the-play, Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W H Auden.
During this imagined meeting, their first for 25 years, they are observed and interrupted by, amongst others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station.
The full cast of the play includes Danny Burns, Martin Chamberlain, Philip Childs, Frances de la Tour, John Heffernan, Alex Jennings, Barbara Kirby, Elliot Levey, Adrian Scarborough and Stephen Wight. It is designed by Bob Crowley, with lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Paul Groothuis.