Alan Bennett skewers UK National Trust in latest play

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There’s nothing the theatre-going middle classes like more than being abused. So they should be rushing to watch Alan Bennett attack their favourite institution – the National Trust – in his new play, People.

The text is as yet unpublished, but Bennett has provided a summary in an article for the London Review of Books. The play was sparked off by his irritation at going round National Trust houses and being required to play up to the role of reverential visitor. He was particularly annoyed by the guides who come up to you, unbidden, when you’re looking at pictures or furniture.

Bennett often gets his laughs by exposing uncomfortable truths. He did it with The History Boys – which skewered history teachers and TV dons for placing titillating, untrue theories above dull historical truth. And now he’s doing it with the National Trust.

And the thing is, he’s right. It’s not just the guides – though I, too, have sprinted through agonisingly lovely rooms in National Trust houses, so as not to be collared by the officials, who painstakingly take you through the genealogy of the eighth earl, and describe the seven Canalettos he bought on the Grand Tour. It’s their whole approach....

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