In Understanding Alan Bennett, Peter Wolfe conveys Bennett's originality, complexities of thought, and creative vigor while examining Bennett in his various roles as actor, director, playwright, and lyricist. As Wolfe illustrates, Bennett's success in his many spheres was no fluke. Bennett's theatrical eminence has been accompanied by awards and professional recognition. His play Single Spies won the Oliver Award as England's best comedy for 1989. The casts of his plays, starting with Forty Years On in 1968, have included such luminaries as Sir John Gielgud, Sir Alec Guinness, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, and Daniel Day Lewis. His screenwriting earned The Madness of King George a nomination for an Academy Award, and Talking Heads was in its twenty-seventh printing in 1995, after seven years in print.
Bennett's ability to write scripts at once funny and sad has lifted him to heights occupied by few of his peers. Understanding Alan Bennett illuminates the writer whose instinct for artistic choices has helped him succeed on his own terms.