Review: The Lady In The Van @ New Theatre
The Lady In The Van
Tuesday 12th June 2012
After stumbling along old reviews and poems from my old pc, you will now see an influx of reviews and poetry in my Pre-Sprout days.
After seeing The History Boys and Enjoy a few years ago, I had wondered if I would ever sit down to an Alan Bennett play again. This opportunity came with The Lady In The Van. Admittedly, the name of this play hardly roused excitement in me, but I still was keen to book. After three desperate and infuriating attempts to book a ticket with the React offer at the New Theatre, I finally was able to see it. I'm glad I did. Few plays have touched me like this and still keep me giggling days after with Bennett's unique humour.
We see Bennett, who in the play has come to accommodate this bizarre lady at the bottom of his garden. Two actors play the writer on stage (as if one Bennett was bad enough), one his physical self and the other his mental self. They both gladly discuss how this play should be written and at one point say they are going off to bed together being "just a metaphor". "ËœThat's what they all say," the first Bennett address to the audience.
One of the more surprising parts of the story is just how posh the lady is. Her name was Miss Shepherd and she was a devout Catholic and an ambulance driver during the Blitz. She even has a conversation with Bennett in French in one scene. All of this is true, yet she was undoubtedly one of the most important women in his life, who in a way became his mother when Bennett's real mum had to be taken into care.
Nichola McAuliffe as Miss Shepherd delivered a stellar performance, which was almost upstaged by the three vehicles used in the production, two vans and a Reliant Robin. (Spoiler alert!) After her death one of the vans is ascended to the rafters as beaming lights emerge from the vehicle. Certainly one of the most wonderful bits of theatre I had witnessed for a long time. Her jumping out of her coffin being a hilarious moment as well.
This story is a timeless one of how to deal with the homeless, or rather how the British deal with the homeless. Most would have shooed her away, not have her stay for years on end. Through a complicated relationship, Bennett was able to find inspiration in this intriguing specimen. One of his best plays? "Possibly."
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