Image Credit: West Yorkshire Playhouse/Antony Crolla
Alan Bennett's Untold Stories, Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, opened on 2nd June 2014 at West Yorkshire Playhouse's Courtyard Theatre. Mark Rosenblatt's production opens with Hymn where Alan Bennett (played by Reece Dinsdale) shares his biographic musical and spiritual memories and thoughts whilst growing up. These experiences range from going to concerts on school trips to his inability in learning play the violin to his father's dismay. The story is set in a studio like environment backed with an orchestra, who played George Fenton's live score, whilst Bennett relates his stories.
Ligeti Quartet arouses Bennett's memoirs and perspectives. He made reference to whenever he sees musicians after the concerts and realises that 'they have the same drudgery as the rest of us in term of going to work'. It isn't any different today when one sees an artist perform on stage but when you see them, not performing, on the street or meet them at stage door they are just as human like ourselves. Not any more or any less special!
Part two of Untold Stories features Cocktail Sticks which primarily focuses on Bennett's family and his upbringing in Leeds. It is set to which Bennett is an unassuming social observer of his family life. The writer's straight forward and humble approach which reflects poetically his parents' self sufficiency and his wish for a emotive childhood. This probably the reason why he is prompted to write about things that the Status Quo considers normal and trivial. He admits the unglamour living experience living in Yorkshire and was keen to escape! He, however, eventually appreciated his roots stating, 'How deeply the city put its stamp on me'. He paid tribute to the free education provision which enabled him to go to university.
Bennett shared with the audience in Cocktail Sticks how his parents struggled socially especially with his mother (played by Marjorie Yates) trying to define the literal use of cocktail sticks! And his father's (played by John Arthur) proud and 'Yorkshire Sensitivity' combined with this humble and straight forward social attitudes.
Untold Stories brought Bennett's self analysis around his humble upbringing combined with his family, musical and spiritual experiences. These attributes cemented his identity to who he has become today. An honest and witty account of Bennett's childhood into adulthood. It might suggest Bennett, as a twist, inviting one and all to go inside the northern landscape to see how his upbringing shaped his life today. Probably, silently, he's trying to eliminate the perceptions attached one may have of him.
A soulful, humble and wit performance which was well received. An excellent play with an excellent cast including Reece Dinsdale, John Arthur, Marjorie Yates, Simon Roberts and Kate Anthony. Untold Stories has now finished its run but do see the positive equivalent, Alan Bennett's Talking Heads is now playing at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Sources: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Untold Stories House Programme. Mark Rosenblatt, Ligeti Quarter, Dr Kara McKechine