Fifty years after his play “Forty Years On,” Alan Bennett
is still pining for the England of old. Just as his first play lamented the slipping standards of an old public school and, by extension, the nation at large, so “Allelujah!” sees an ailing National Health Service hospital as symptomatic of a wider national malaise. The show, now playing at Nicholas Hytner
’s Bridge Theatre, is full of all the playwright’s signature elements — warmth, wry humor, faith in humankind — but at some point, you have to ask whether his idyllic, old England ever really existed. His nostalgia’s seductive, but mighty sentimental — and maybe, in this misty-eyed political climate, dangerous too.
Set in the geriatric wing of a Yorkshire hospital at full stretch, its future hanging in the balance, “Allelujah!” throws up a collage of characters and a criss-cross of subplots. Among the patients, singing in the hospital’s in-house Oap choir,