As previously announced, the play will star Michael Gambon and Alex Jennings as WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, respectively.
The will be joined by a cast that includes Frances de la Tour (who was in the National's production of Bennett's The History Boys, and subsequently reprised her performance on Broadway) and Adrian Scarborough (who was in the film version of that play), as well as John Heffernan, Elliot Levey and Stephen Wight.
The play is directed by Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, who has previously directed Bennett's adaptation of The Wind in the Willows at the National, as well as The Madness of George III and The History Boys there, and The Lady in the Van in the West End. In the play, Benjamin Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W H Auden. During this imagined meeting, their first for 25 years, they are observed and interrupted by, amongst others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station. In press materials, the play is described as being "as much about the theatre as it is about poetry or music. It looks at the unsettling desires of two difficult men, and at the ethics of biography. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion's spent: ultimately, on the habit of art."
The play is Bennett's fifth for the National. Gambon last appeared at the National as Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 in 2005. Jennings was last seen at the National in Present Laughter. Other recent appearances there include The Alchemist, Stuff Happens and His Girl Friday.
The play will be broadcast to cinema screens in the U.K and internationally as part of NT Live on April 22, 2010. Public booking, by phone and online, opens for The Habit of Art Sept. 2. To book tickets contact the box office at 020 7452 3000 or visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.