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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
What a pleasure to hear Maggie Smith's voice and Alan Bennett's wit. I thoroughly enjoyed listening.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful
Alan Bennett at his best funny, crude and meticulously observant of his subject and himself.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Alan Bennet's lady in the van is none other than Maggie Smith who gives a wonderful performance. This true story recounts a tale of a real character, an eccentric. I was brought up in Camden in the early sixties and there were several eccentrics living there from the lady who accosted every man asking if he were Mr Daly, the old man in my street who lived in a house full of newspapers piled up everywhere and the shellshock man who wandered around spitting out imaginary mud from his mouth. As he was quite elderly I suppose he really had been in the First World War. Just to say that I do not doubt the authenticity of this lady. Bravo to Alan Bennet who allowed her to stay in his garden for all those years. It will have you laughing out loud at times, disgusted and maybe even tearful.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful