An eccentric old lady moves into a quiet street in Camden Town. There she remains, installed in her van in glorious self-sufficiency, until the council instructs her to move on. Then a kind homeowner invites her to move her van into his garden - where she stays for the next 15 years. This is the fascinating story of the genteel vagrant who found a unique place in Alan Bennett's life and writing.
But the drama is as much about the author himself as Miss Shepherd. Why did Alan Bennett let her commandeer his driveway? Was he acting out of kindness, weakness or hidden guilt over not spending enough time with his own mother? Did he always subconsciously plan to exploit Miss Shepherd for literary profit?
Thought provoking and moving, The Lady in the Van tackles profound questions about social responsibility, homelessness and mental illness with a lightness of touch characteristic of Bennett the master storyteller.
With a full cast including Adrian Scarborough, Marcia Warren and Alan Bennett, this bittersweet comic tale stars Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd.
Now a major BBC feature film starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Gretchen SLP on 01-05-16
Maggie Smith Gets 'The Last Laugh'
This BBC radio play (based on a true story) starring the great Maggie Smith is enormously entertaining, full of laugh-out-loud moments and wonderful characterizations as well as philosophical musings and relevant social commentary. What it's NOT strong on is any real plot; it's quite simply just the tale of a genteel, unwittingly hilarious, homeless old woman who lives out of her van and imposes on reluctant playwright and homeowner Alan Bennett by living on his property for so long that she becomes, like it or not, a part of his life.
What's to love: Maggie Smith in one of the best and most original roles of her life as the old lady, delivering some of the most preposterous and side-splittingly funny lines of her career. What's not to love: Alan Bennett (clearly a talented playwright but just as clearly not a natural actor), unwisely cast as himself (and sometimes as two different and contradictory versions of himself, Alan One and Alan Two), who pretty much says all his lines in kind of a wimpy, quavery "Why me?" tone of voice. It also is dubious whether he is fully successful at drawing analogies between the old lady and his own declining mother, and analyzing his own motivations for helping the old lady. All of the supporting characters are well drawn and superbly voiced, however.
One of the funniest moments occurs at the very end of the play, when a seminal moment has occurred (not to give too much away), and the old lady delivers a great belly laugh, noting that "I came for three months...and stayed for over fifteen years!"
Now to see the new movie!
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By T M Brown on 01-01-16
Brilliant, a classic
Alan Bennett at his best funny, crude and meticulously observant of his subject and himself.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By John on 10-12-15
Absolutely wonderful! Maggie Smith in particular shines, delivering each line with comic perfection and each utterance provided masterfully - Alan Bennet also brilliant as himself
3 of 3 people found this review helpful