Hymn and Cocktail Sticks

Alan Bennett
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ISBN 9780571299249 Format Hardback
Published 22/11/2012 Length 128 pages

About Book

It's a dwindling band; old-fashioned and of a certain age, you can pick us out at funerals and memorial services because we can sing the hymns without the book.

Alan Bennett writes: In 2001 the Medici Quartet commissioned the composer George Fenton to write them a piece commemorating their thirtieth anniversary. George Fenton appeared in my play Forty Years On and has written music for many of my plays since, and he asked me to collaborate on the commission. Hymn was the result. First performed at the Harrogate Festival in August 2001, it's a series of memoirs with music. Besides purely instrumental passages for the quartet, many of the speeches are under-scored, incorporating some of the hymns and music I remember from my childhood and youth. The text includes both words and music.

Hymn is coupled with Cocktail Sticks, an oratorio without music that revisits some of the themes and conversations of Alan Bennett's memoir A Life Like Other People's. A son talks to his dead father as his mother yearns for a different life. It's funny, tender and sad.

The pinnacle of my social life is a scrutty bit of lettuce and tomato and some tinned salmon. Mind you, I read in Ideal Home that if you mix tinned salmon with this soft cheese you can make it into one of those moussy things. Shove a bit of lemon on it and it looks really classy.

  • About Alan Bennett

    Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for the stage including Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van (together with the screenplay), A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George), andan adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, London, The History Boys (also a screenplay) won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for Best New Play and the South Bank Award. On Broadway,The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critics' Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics' Award, a New York Drama League Award and six Tonys. The Habit of Art opened at the National in 2009; in 2012, People, as well as the two short plays Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, was also staged there. 

    Alan Bennett's collection of prose, Keeping On Keeping On, publishes in October 2016. Of his two previous collections, Writing Home was a number one bestseller and Untold Stories won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. Bennett's Six Poets, Hardy to Larkin, An Anthology, was published in 2014. Fiction includes The Uncommon Reader and Smut: Two Unseemly Stories.

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