Browsing in the bookshop of London’s Royal National Theatre last week, I noticed a new display of the Works of Alan Bennett including CD's of Mr B himself reading extracts from his Diaries, plays written for Thora Hird and his version of The Wind in the Willows. There were also SIGNED COPIES of the book-of-the-film- of-the-play, The History Boys and the paperback edition of Untold Stories each inscribed in Bennett's neat but miniscule hand.
A memory instantly returned from eighteen months ago (apologies to those who read it the first time!) when the door-stop sized hardback edition of Untold Stories had just been published and was - as now - being sold with the author's signature.
An elderly theatre patron hovered by the table, clearly debating whether or not the necessary outlay of £20 for a SIGNED COPY was justified.
His wife joined him. “Well,” she asked, “are you going to buy it?”
“I don’t really know,” he replied hesitantly, opening one of the books at the title-page and closely scrutinising the autograph.
Then, replacing the book on the stack he said, in a line worthy of Mr Bennett himself:
“No... I don’t think so… it’s a very SMALL signature…”