LIFE is truly stranger than fiction in Alan Bennett’s memoir of the woman who came to live in the front drive of his Campden Town home, providing him with the story that became the play and film The Lady in the Van.
Already an award-winning play, it was filmed with Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd and Alex Jennings playing both the personae of Alan Bennett. Of course this is not possible on stage, where two actors are required to depict the conflicting attitudes that the writer developed towards his often-unwelcome guest.
A new production of the funny, poignant and extraordinary play ends the 2017 Bath Theatre Royal summer season, directed by Jonathan Church and running from 17th August to 2nd September.
It stars Sara Kestelman as the infuriatingly enigmatic Miss Shepherd, with Sam Alexander (returning after his early summer appearance in Racing Demon) and James Northcote as the Bennetts, and William Gaunt as the menacing Underwood.
The peculiarities of Miss Shepherd’s conversation, her fear of an unknown past and her religious fervour provided a rich source of inspiration for Bennett, and the entertaining play is as compelling as it is humourous and humane.
If you enjoyed the film, see how the great Sara Kestelman re-interprets the role. She was last seen in Bath, at the Ustinov Studio, in 4000 Miles. The Olivier award winning actress (for her role as Frau Schneider in Cabaret at the Donar – see it on YouTube) is also a director, poet and songwriter.
The Lady in the Van us on from Monday to Saturday throughout its run, and there are Thursday and Saturday matinees. For more information, telephone 01225 448844 or visit the website (which is hoped to be running normally after this weekend), at www.theatreroyal.org.uk