Denmark Hill - lost play by Alan Bennett


Denmark Hill – Alan Bennett play

I’d had never heard of Alan Bennett before this…but I’m off to find out what else he’s done. Denmark Hill is a “Modern” story that could take place either in the1980s (when it was written) or even the future. There is a timeless quality about it as, in the end, it comes down to human nature.

Harriet, the youngest child of Gwen and Frank, is busy working on a school assignment on “Shakespeare’s view of the family” while her life comes to mirror one various famous family in his plays. Her father dies while ill and her mother takes up almost instantly with a family friend. Her brother, Charles, comes to believe he was killed and tries to prove it. The Hamlet elements are there, easy to see, but not in your face. And the characters aren’t exact copies: choices thoughts and feelings are not always the same. The ending, though, was just as deadly – maybe more – then the famous sword fight scene.

The tongue in cheek way the Hamlet elements are used was part of what endeared this play to me. Harriet muses halfway through how her life reminds her of the play and wants to ask her teacher whether Hamlet had a sister. She also wonders about using the play-within-a-play and thinks that if they are living a play, then it becomes a play-within-a-play-within-a-play. Have to love meta.

The cast was brilliant; the actor playing Harriet was particularly amazing and I loved hearing, however briefly, Geoffrey Palmer as Frank and Alan Bennett himself as the narrator. The narration sections got a bit much at times, but as this was originally written as a TV script, I thought it translated well.


Is it just me or are both Gwen and George guilty? At the very least, Gwen seems to know what he did. And the fact that George continues to kill, not feel remorse is terribly human. …and what is up with Harriet’s teacher? She’s a constant presence but we never “see” her and the way Harriet hums at times reminds me eerily of Ophelia. I’m wondering if the teacher is real. But I may be reading too much into this.

(show spoiler)



There's only three days left now, but I recommend it.